5 dead in Albuquerque Street hot air balloon crash – .

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5 dead in Albuquerque Street hot air balloon crash – .


ALBUQUERQUE, NM – A hot air balloon struck a power line and crashed on a busy street in Albuquerque on Saturday, killing all five people on board, including the parents of an Albuquerque cop, police said.

The crash happened around 7 a.m. in the western part of the city, police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said. 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 names of the others, but said the male pilot and a female and male passenger were from central New Mexico.

Martin Martinez had also worked for the Albuquerque Police on bicycle patrol, but more recently he was a police sergeant for the local school district, authorities said. Some Albuquerque officers who responded to the crash had worked with him and were sent home because it cost them dearly, Police Chief Harold Medina said.

“It really underscored the fact that no matter how small we are still a tight-knit community and incidents like this affect us all,” said Medina.

The Albuquerque Public School District said Martin Martinez “will be forever remembered for his lifelong dedication, courage and selflessness to the profession of law enforcement.”

The intersection where the balloon crashed was still closed late Saturday afternoon. The multi-colored balloon had skirted the tops of power lines, sending at least one suspended balloon and temporarily shutting off power to more than 13,000 homes, police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said.

The gondola fell about 30 meters and crashed in the middle of the street, catching fire, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Passers-by frantically called out a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and prayed aloud, a video posted online showed.

The balloon envelope flew off and eventually landed on a residential rooftop, Gallegos said. The FAA did not immediately have registration details for the ball but identified it as a 0-120 Cameron.

Authorities have not determined the cause of the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board sent two investigators to the scene on Saturday who will examine the pilot, the balloon itself and the operating environment, spokesman Peter Knudson said. A preliminary report is usually available in a few weeks.

Gallegos said hot air balloons can be difficult to manage, especially when the wind picks up.

“Our balloonists tend to be very expert in navigation, but sometimes we have these types of tragic accidents,” he said.

Albuquerque is the hot air balloon mecca. 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 in the world.

Residents of the Albuquerque area are treated to colorful displays of balloons floating above homes and along the Rio Grande throughout the year. Although accidents are not common, they do happen.

“This is a tragedy that is uniquely felt and strikes uniquely with us here in Albuquerque and in the hot air balloon community,” said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller.

Since 2008, there have been 12 fatal balloon accidents in the United States, according to an NTSB database. Two of them occurred in Rio Rancho just outside Albuquerque, including one in January where a passenger who was thrown from the gondola after a hard landing died of his injuries.

In 2016, in neighboring Texas, a hot air balloon struck high-voltage power lines before crashing into a mid-state pasture. All 16 people on board died. Federal officials said at the time that it was the worst such disaster in U.S. history.

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