The explosion of a hot-air balloon aloft in the state of Virginia near the U.S. capital left two of its passengers dead and another missing, police said Saturday.

The three were riding in the gondola of the balloon, which according to eyewitnesses, hit a power line Friday evening and burst into flames.

Corinne Geller, spokeswoman for the Virginia state police, told a press conference Saturday that "the balloon made contact with a live utility wire that in turn sparked a fire. The fire spread quickly."

Carrie Hager-Bradley, who was watching when the balloon exploded, said in a statement on local television network WWBT that she heard screams for help from the passengers.

"They were just screaming for anybody to help them. 'Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help, I'm going to die, oh my God, I'm going to die,'" she told the network.

The remains of one of the balloon's occupants were found soon after midnight Friday in a wooded area of Virginia, while the second victim was found at mid-morning Saturday.

Geller said police feel certain of finding the third balloon passenger by tonight.

The hot-air balloon explosion occurred in a rural area near the Meadow Event Park in Caroline County, Virginia, where the popular Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival, scheduled for this weekend, was canceled because of the tragedy. EFE