Four people died and one person was in critical condition after a hot air balloon they were riding in hit power lines in New Mexico's largest city, police said Saturday.
The crash happened around 7 a.m. on Albuquerque's west side, police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said. No identities have been released but fire officials said two males, including the pilot, and two females died.
The multi-colored balloon skirted the top of the power lines, sending at least one dangling and knocking out power to more than 13,000 homes, Gallegos said.
The gondola fell about 100 feet (30 meters) and crashed in the median of a busy street, catching on fire, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Bystanders frantically called out for a fire extinguisher to put out the flames, video posted online showed.
The envelope of the balloon floated away, eventually landing on a residential rooftop, Gallegos said. The FAA did not immediately have registration details for the balloon but identified it as a Cameron 0-120.
Authorities haven't determined what caused the crash. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board were investigating.
Gallegos said hot air balloons can be difficult to manage, particularly when the wind kicks up.
“Our balloonists tend to be very much experts at navigating, but sometimes we have these types of tragic accidents,” he said.
Albuquerque is a mecca for hot air ballooning. The city hosts a nine-day event in October that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators and pilots from around the world. It is one of the most photographed events globally.
Albuquerque-area residents are treated to colorful displays of balloons floating over homes and along the Rio Grande throughout the year. While accidents aren't common, they happen.
A passenger in a hot air balloon outside Albuquerque was injured when he was ejected from the gondola after a hard landing in January, according to the NTSB. He later died from his injuries.
In 2016 in neighboring Texas, a hot air balloon hit high-tension power lines before crashing into a pasture in the central part of the state. All 16 people on board died. Federal authorities said at the time it was the worst such disaster in U.S. history.