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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - NEW MEXICO — A hot air balloon crashed in an Albuquerque, New Mexico, neighborhood on Saturday, killing five people after apparently being blown into power lines by the wind and catching fire, police said.
The pilot and three passengers were pronounced dead at the scene, police said. The fourth passenger was transported to an Albuquerque hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
The basket crashed on a street corner in the city's West Side neighborhood near a pharmacy, about six miles (10 km) west of the Albuquerque International Sunport Airport, according to a report from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The balloon separated from the basket after it crashed and landed elsewhere, police said. The ages of the victims are between 40 and 60 years old, police said, but no names were released immediately. No one on the ground was injured.
Albuquerque police say the gondola of a balloon detached from the envelope and hit a power line around 7 a.m. Saturday. The gondola crashed, falling 100 feet with five people inside by the CVS Pharmacy near Central Avenue and Unser Boulevard. The envelope was found in the backyard of a home about a mile south of the crash site.
Witnesses said when the gondola crashed it was on fire and several bystanders tried to help put that fire out. One viewer video shows people yelling for a fire extinguisher and then a man running over to extinguish the blaze. Investigators say it is not yet clear what events led up to the crash.
APD released the names of two out of the five victims in a news conference on Saturday. Martin Martinez, 59, a former APD and APS officer and his wife Mary Martinez, 62, were among those killed.
We do not know the names of the other three killed but police did say they were all between the ages of 40 and 60.
Because the crash involved a major transmission line power was out for thousands of customers in the area. But just after 11 a.m. PNM said power had been fully restored.
"Our hearts are deeply saddened about the loss of lives today. Any time there are fatalities involved, it is incredibly hard for those involved, family and friends, for first responders, PNM crews and for so many others.
“This was a terrible incident. We would like to thank first responders and PNM crews for their work on this very sad day," read a statement from Shannon Jackson with PNM.
"It is with a heavy heart that we share news of the sudden and tragic loss of Sgt. Martin Martinez and his wife Mary, who died early Saturday in a hot air ballooning accident.
Sgt. Martinez will forever be remembered for his lifelong dedication, courage, and selflessness to the profession of law enforcement. He had long careers with both the Albuquerque Police Department and the Albuquerque Public Schools Police Department.
We extend our deepest condolences to the Martinez family as well as members of the APS Police Department who loved, admired, and respected Sgt. Martinez. APS will provide counseling services to any employee struggling with this unexpected death," read a statement from Superintendent Scott Elder with APS.
Joshua Perez was at a nearby gym with his girlfriend when he heard "a loud bang" and saw the hot air balloon falling apart after hitting the power line.
"You could just see them on the ground. No one was moving," Perez told KOB. Perez and others near the crash rushed to the scene with fire extinguishers, after seeing that part of the balloon had caught fire, and turned off the propane to avoid an explosion, he said.
A Twitter user from New Mexico said Saturday that he saw the hot air balloon falling from the sky "with no basket" after losing power in his home. "Power went out first," he tweeted alongside a video he took from his window. "Looked out my window saw it falling with no basket. Horrible." — Agencies
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