5 dead after hot air balloon crash in Albuquerque

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Five people died Saturday after a hot air balloon hit power lines and crashed, officials said.

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Update 10:35 a.m. EDT June 27: Officials released the identities of the remaining victims Sunday, KOB reported.

The other victims were, pilot Nicholas Meleski, 62; Susan Montoya, 65; and John Montoya, 61.

Update 9:45 p.m. EDT June 26: Four people died at the scene, and one man was taken to a hospital where he later died, Mayor Tim Keller said at a news conference Saturday afternoon.

Two of the victims were named during Keller’s news conference, KRQE reported. They were identified as retired Albuquerque police and APS Sgt. Martin Martinez, 59, and his wife, Mary Martinez, 62, the television station reported. The remaining victims’ identities will not be released until family members have been contacted. The crash remains under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Update 2:15 p.m. EDT June 26: Victim identities have not been released but officials said two males including the pilot, and two females died in the crash.

The cause of the crash is unclear, however, authorities said the gondola fell from about 100 feet before crashing into the median of a busy street. The envelope of the balloon, identified as a Cameron 0-120, floated away, eventually landing on the roof of a home.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

The area is a hot spot for balloon enthusiasts. A nine-day event in October is one of the most photographed events globally.

“Our balloonists tend to be very much experts at navigating, but sometimes we have these types of tragic accidents,” police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said.

Original report: Albuquerque police said the balloon hit the power lines after 7 a.m. killing four people on board, KOAT reported. Another person was injured. That victim was taken to a hospital in critical and unstable condition.

The Public Service Company of New Mexico said 13,000 customers were without power, KRQE reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.





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