Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Crash kills 5 after hitting powerlines. Cause of accident unknown.
5 individuals have died after a hot air balloon they were riding hit a hit a power line and crashed onto a busy street in New Mexico on Saturday, killing all on board, including the parents of an Albuquerque police officer, police said.
The crash happened around 7 a.m. in the city’s west side, police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said according to AP. Police identified two of the passengers as Martin Martinez, 59, and Mary Martinez, 62 — the parents of a prison transport officer with the Albuquerque Police Department.
Police did not immediately release the others’ names but said the male pilot, and a female and male passenger were from central New Mexico.
At the time of the crash, police said four of the five victims had been killed with a fifth individual rushed to hospital, only for that individual to mortally succumb to his wounds.
Police estimated the age range of the victims to be between 40 and 60 years old, KOB reported.
‘You could just see them on the ground. No one was moving,’
Joshua Perez was at a nearby gym with his girlfriend when he heard ‘a loud bang’ and saw the hot air ballon falling apart after hitting the power line.
‘You could just see them on the ground. No one was moving,’ Perez told KOB. Perez and others near the crash rushed to the scene with fire extinguishers, after seeing that part of the balloon had caught fire, and turned off the propane to avoid an explosion, he said.
The intersection where the balloon crashed was still cordoned off late Saturday afternoon. The multi-colored balloon had skirted the top of the power lines, sending at least one dangling and temporarily knocking out power to more than 13,000 homes, said police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos.
The gondola fell about 100 feet (30 meters) and crashed in the street’s median, catching on fire, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Bystanders frantically called out for a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and prayed aloud, video posted online (see above) showed.
The envelope of the balloon floated away, eventually landing on a residential rooftop, Gallegos said. The FAA did not immediately have registration details for the balloon but identified it as a Cameron 0-120.
Authorities haven’t determined what caused the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board sent two investigators to the scene Saturday who will look into the pilot, the balloon itself and the operating environment, said spokesman Peter Knudson. A preliminary report is expected in two weeks.
Gallegos said hot air balloons can be difficult to manage, particularly when, ‘the wind kicks up.’
‘Our balloonists tend to be very much experts at navigating, but sometimes we have these types of tragic accidents,’ the official said.
Albuquerque is a center for hot air ballooning. The city hosts a nine-day event in October that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators and pilots from around the world. It is one of the most photographed events globally.
Since 2008, there have been 12 fatal hot air ballooning accidents in the United States, according to an NTSB database. Two of those happed in Rio Rancho just outside Albuquerque, including one in January where a passenger who was ejected from the gondola after a hard landing died from his injuries.
In 2016 in neighboring Texas, a hot air balloon hit high-tension power lines before crashing into a pasture in the central part of the state. All 16 people on board died. Federal authorities said at the time it was the worst such disaster in U.S. history.