5 people dead after hot air balloon crash in New Mexico

Credit to ABC News/Samara Lynn and Meredith Deliso
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Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal/ABC News

Five people are dead after a hot air balloon crashed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, authorities said Saturday.

A Cameron 0-120 hot air balloon hit a power line just after 7 a.m. about 6 miles west of the Albuquerque International Sunport Airport, authorities said. The basket the passengers were riding in detached from the envelope, crashed and caught fire.

The basket fell about 100 feet, Albuquerque Fire Rescue told ABC News Albuquerque affiliate KOAT.

The envelope kept going and authorities said they located it a little over a mile south of the crash site. Aerial and ground images from the scene suggest it landed in a backyard.

“The balloon just fell off, you guys. Hit an electrical pole,” an astonished witness, Josh Perez, said during a Facebook Live video he recorded near the crash site. “Oh my God, this is sad.”

Police believe the victims’ age ranges are 40s to 60s. Four people — two men, including the pilot, and two women — were reported dead following the crash. Police confirmed Saturday afternoon that a man who was transported to a hospital in critical condition also died.

“Our prayers go out to the friends and family of all five people who tragically lost their lives,” the Albuquerque Police Department said on social media.

The victims all lived in central New Mexico, according to Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller. He identified two of the victims as Martin Martinez, 59, a former Albuquerque police officer, and his wife, Mary Martinez, 62. The names of the three other victims are not being released yet pending family notification, the mayor said.

“Every time when we look up at the sky and see those beautiful balloons or watch the [Albuquerque International] Balloon Fiesta, and 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,” Keller said at a press briefing Saturday afternoon. “This is a tragedy that is uniquely felt, uniquely hits hard at home here in Albuquerque, and in the ballooning community.”

Keller said it’s too early to make a statement on the cause of the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

Power initially was out for more than 13,000 customers in the area following the crash, KOAT reported, though it’s since been restored.

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