Four people are dead and a fifth is in critical, unstable condition following a New Mexico hot air balloon crash on Saturday. The hot air balloon had been airborne over Albuquerque when it somehow crashed into a Public Service of New Mexico high-voltage power line.
The names of the victims have not been released to the public or the media pending further investigation and notification of next of kin. What is known is that the four deceased people and the person hospitalized in critical and unstable condition are between 40 and 60 years of age. One of the deceased individuals is thought to be the pilot of the hot air balloon.
Of the four people who perished in the accident, two were men and two were women. The person who is now hospitalized is a man. No specific information about the hospitalized man has been released beyond his status as being in critical and unstable condition.
Information about the cause of the New Mexico hot air balloon crash is limited. An investigation into the catastrophe had only just begun as of late Saturday morning. What is known is that immediately upon impact with the high-voltage power line, the gondola or passenger compartment immediately caught fire, shortly becoming thoroughly engulfed in intense flames.
Multiple agencies are already involved in the investigation of the catastrophic accident. These include the Albuquerque Police Department, the New Mexico State Police, the Albuquerque Fire Department, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Transportation Safety Board. No specific timeframe has been announced regarding when more information may be made available regarding the underlying cause of this tragic accident.
Gilbert Gallegos, the spokesperson for the Albuquerque Police Department, has made a brief statement on the state affairs following the fatal hot air balloon accident. “Unfortunately, when police and fire officials arrived they found four deceased on site. (The hospitalized man is) in pretty bad shape. Doctors at the hospital are working to save that individual. It's just a very tragic situation. Our officers who arrived first on scene had a tough time when they saw what they saw. These things are just horrible …”
More than 13,000 Albuquerque residents are without power as a result of the accident. According to Public Service of New Mexico, the company is not permitted to work on the damaged powerlines, let alone restore power to customers, until the preliminary investigation into the crash is completed.
Witnesses to the accident indicated that they observed the bottom of the hot air balloon gondola scrapping the top of the high-voltage powerline immediately before the accident and the start of the fire. There is no information yet accessible to explain why the hot air balloon was so close to the powerlines in the first instance.
In addition to a lack of significant information about the cause of the accident, nothing has yet been released about the owner of the hot air balloon itself. In Albuquerque, as is the case in New Mexico more generally and across the country, tourists and others are able to book rides on hot air balloons from private operators. A prime hot air balloon trip is one that takes passengers over a metro area like Albuquerque. Although no specific information is yet available in this regard, odds are strong that the hot air balloon trip was provided to passengers by a private operator in or about Albuquerque.
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