New York Times

Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Crash Kills 4, Police Say

Four people died after a hot-air balloon crashed into a power line in Albuquerque, N.M., on Saturday morning, the authorities said.

One person was taken to a hospital and was in critical condition, said Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for the Albuquerque police.

The victims included two men and two women, said Tom Ruiz, a spokesman for Albuquerque Fire Rescue. One of the men who died was the pilot of the balloon, Mr. Gallegos said.

The crash happened around 7 a.m. local time near a CVS pharmacy on Unser Boulevard and Central Avenue in an area dotted with stores and restaurants.

The gondola of the balloon crashed into the street and then the balloon detached and floated away, Mr. Gallegos said.

“My understanding is it skirted the top of the line and crashed into the top of the intersection,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration said that it believed five people were on board the balloon and that it caught fire after it crashed.

“A Cameron 0-120 hot-air balloon struck power lines about six miles west of the Albuquerque International Sunport Airport,” the agency said in a statement.

Joshua Perez was at a gym when he heard what sounded like gunshots, he told the television station KOB. He and another man rushed to the scene with a fire extinguisher.

“It was like a loud ‘boom boom,’” he said, “and that’s when I’d seen the balloon already going by itself, and I was like, ‘Where’s the basket?’”

Mr. Perez helped turn off the propane tank but it was too late to save the passengers, he said.

“You could just see them on the ground,” he said. “No one was moving.”

The remnants of the balloon landed on a home in Austin Council’s neighborhood in Albuquerque. Mr. Council, 24, woke up to a loud whooshing sound, he said.

“The second that I looked outside and saw the fabric I knew something was wrong,” Mr. Council said in an interview on Saturday morning. “It was a little scary because the basket and people weren’t with the balloon.”

Albuquerque has an active hot-air ballooning scene, and pilots are used to navigating the windy weather in the Southwest, Mr. Gallegos said.

“There’s a little bit of wind right now,” he said. “I don’t know if that played a part in the crash.”

The police did not know if the balloon was owned by a hot-air balloon company or an individual person.

About 14,000 people in the area lost power because of the crash, PNM, an electric utility, said on Twitter.

“PNM is aware of an incident in ABQ that occurred this morning involving a hot-air balloon that came into contact with PNM equipment,” it said on Twitter. “PNM is working with first responders on scene.”

Eduardo Medina contributed reporting.

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