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5 die in hot air balloon crash in Albuquerque, New Mexico

hot air balloons
Posted at 11:52 AM, Jun 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-26 22:49:55-04

Five people have died after a hot air balloon they were riding in crashed on a busy city street in New Mexico.

Police say the crash happened around 7 a.m. Saturday on Albuquerque's west side.

Authorities released the names of two of the passengers: Martin and Mary Martinez, the parents of a prison transport officer. Police haven't released the identities of the pilot or two other passengers.

Police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos says the multi-colored balloon skirted the top of the power lines. The gondola crashed to the ground, and the balloon envelope floated away, eventually landing on a residential rooftop.

“We always think about the wonderful thing that it is that we have this in our community. But we also know that sometimes accidents do happen when it comes to ballooning,” said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller. “We obviously can't speak to any of the details because it’s all under investigation, but we also know that this a tragedy uniquely felt and uniquely hits hard here at home in Albuquerque and the ballooning community.”

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.

“In 26 years, it’s one of the scenes I guess that hit me the most because it was such a beautiful moment that led to such a tragic ending for these individuals involved,” said Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina.