ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Five people died after a hot air balloon they were riding in hit power lines in New Mexico’s largest city, police said Saturday. The crash happened around 7 a.m. on Albuquerque’s west side near Central and Unser, police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said.
The balloon pilot is among the dead, he said. No identities have been released.
The fifth person was taken to a hospital where police say they died.
The male adult who was transported to the hospital succumbed to his wounds. Our prayers go out to the friends and family of all five people who tragically lost their lives.
— Albuquerque Police Department (@ABQPOLICE) June 26, 2021
Authorities tell KRQE the basket detached from the balloon, and the basket hit power lines.
The crash knocked out power to more than 13,000 homes, Gallegos said.
The gondola crashed in the median of a busy street and caught fire, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The agency did not immediately have registration details for the balloon.
The envelope of the Cameron 0-120 balloon floated away, eventually landing on a residential rooftop, Gallegos said.
Authorities haven’t determined what caused the crash. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board were investigating.
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,” he said.
Albuquerque is a mecca 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.
Albuquerque-area residents are treated to colorful displays of balloons floating over homes and along the Rio Grande throughout the year. While accidents aren’t common, they happen.
A passenger in a hot air balloon outside Albuquerque was injured when he was ejected from the gondola after a hard landing in January, according to the NTSB. He later died from his injuries.
Last week, on Father’s Day, two hot air balloons crashed in Colorado, one at Chatfield State Park and the other at Roxborough Park.
By FELICIA FONSECA (© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)