Fire rescue teams responded to the incident Saturday morning. The balloon struck power lines and fell about 100 feet to the ground, said Albuquerque Fire Rescue spokesman Tom Ruiz.
“One of the deceased male patients was the pilot of the balloon,” Ruiz said. “The balloon envelope was found at a separate location south of the incident. The cause of the initial crash is unknown at this time.”
The victims were later identified as 62-year-old Nicholas Meleski, the pilot; Susan Montoya, 65; John Montoya, 61; Mary Martinez, 59; and Martin Martinez, 62. All five were from Albuquerque.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.
“We know from experience here in Albuquerque that sometimes winds kick up or things happen that make it difficult for balloons to navigate,” Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for the police department, said of the incident. “We’re not sure the cause of this at this point. Obviously, the FAA will look into this and determine what the cause was.”
“It’s just a very tragic situation,” Gallegos said. “Our officers who arrived first on scene had a tough time when they saw what they saw. These things are just horrible anytime they happen.”
The crash caused a power outage affecting more than 13,000 customers in the southwestern part of the city, though power has been restored.
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Original Author: Mike Brest
Original Location: Five dead in hot air balloon crash in New Mexico