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Eyewitness accounts in the balloon deaths inquest

The hot air balloon crashed in January last year Photo: ITV West

An inquest is being held today into the deaths of two men from Bristol who were killed when their hot air balloon crashed in Somerset in January last year.

Lee Pibworth and Allan Burnett died when the craft hit the ground in Midsomer Norton on New Year's Day 2011.

Eyewitnesses from several villages around the crash site have described how they saw the deflated balloon hurtling towards the ground.

Theresa Horton was alerted by what she described as a horrific noise. She could see one person inside the basket who appeared to be operating the burners.

Michael Jones from Radstock said the balloon was partially inflated. He described how he heard a loud thud as it hit the ground and saw flames and smoke coming from the area. He said he ran towards the basket and found it well ablaze. He was forced to retreat because he feared the gas cylinders would explode.

Martin Coward, a fireman returning from a nightshift in Bath, was the first to arrive on the scene. He also saw the balloon hurtling towards the ground 'very loud and fast'. When he reached the basket he said he could see a man sitting up in side but no sign of movement. He assumed the man was unconscious but he couldn't reach him because it was too hot.

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