New Mexico: four people dead after hot air balloon crash in Albuquerque

Four people died and one person was in critical condition after a hot air balloon hit power lines in New Mexico’s largest city, police said.

The crash happened around 7am on Albuquerque’s west side, police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said. No identities were immediately released but fire officials said two males, including the pilot, and two females died.

The multi-colored balloon skirted the top of the power lines, sending at least one dangling and knocking out power to more than 13,000 homes, Gallegos said.

The gondola fell about 100ft and crashed in the median of a busy street, catching fire, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said. Bystanders frantically called for a fire extinguisher, video posted online 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 had not 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 center for ballooning. The city hosts a nine-day event in October that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators and pilots. It is one of the most photographed events globally.

Residents are treated to colorful displays of balloons floating over homes and along the Rio Grande throughout the year.

In January, a passenger in a hot air balloon outside Albuquerque was ejected from the gondola after a hard landing, according to the NTSB. He died from his injuries.

In 2016 in Texas, a hot air balloon hit high-tension power lines before crashing into a pasture. All 16 people on board died. Federal authorities said it was the worst such disaster in US history.

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