Four people have been killed and one critically injured in a hot air balloon crash in New Mexico after it flew into power lines, according to authorities.
The craft came down on a street corner in the West Side neighborhood of Albuquerque around 7am Saturday, about six miles from Albuquerque International Sunport Airport.
The balloon is thought to have been blown by the wind into power lines, causing it to catch fire and the basket to separate from the colorful envelope.
The basket then plummeted to the ground in flames, landing in a busy street close to a local CVS pharmacy.
The envelope – the colorful balloon part – was later found in the backyard of a home about a mile away.
Five people were flying in the craft at the time. Two men and two women including the male pilot were killed while a fifth victim is in a critical condition in hospital.
All the victims were aged between 40 and 60 years old.
Their identities have not been released but they are confirmed to all have been flying in the craft at the time, with no injuries reported on the ground.
At least four people have been killed and one critically injured in a hot air balloon crash in New Mexico after it flew into power lines, according to authorities
The balloon is thought to have been blown by the wind into power lines, causing it to catch fire and the basket to separate from the balloon. The balloon is seen landing near a home
The colorful balloon was later found in the backyard of a home about a mile away (above)
The basket is seen on the ground in the busy street Saturday with victims lying close by as emergency crews respond to the scene
Albuquerque Police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said at a press conference that the multi-colored balloon skirted the top of the power lines at around 7am.
Witnesses told KOAT the basket was on fire when it crashed into the street with several bystanders rushing to try to put the fire out.
Another witness told KOB4 he was in a gym nearby when he heard a loud bang that ‘sounded like gunshots’.
Joshua Perez rushed out and saw the balloon part flying off detached, before noticing the basket lying in the street.
He said people turned off the propane on the balloon and ran over with fire extinguishers to help save the victims.
‘I was just thinking save these people, save these people and you could just see them on the ground no one was moving,’ he said.
‘We turned off the propane off the balloon so it didn’t blow up on them.’
Police said the four people were already dead when they arrived on the scene.
Emergency crews on the scene of the hot air balloon crash Saturday in New Mexico
Gallegos told The Albuquerque Journal the fifth victim, whose gender has not been revealed, is in a ‘pretty bad shape’.
‘Doctors at the hospital are working to save that individual,’ Gallegos said.
‘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 anytime they happen.’
Gallegos said it was not clear what had caused the balloon to strike the power line but ‘sometimes winds kick up or things happen that make it difficult for balloons to navigate.’
‘Our balloonists tend to be very much experts at navigating, but sometimes we have these types of tragic accidents,’ he said.
The collision also left one of the lines dangling down and cut off power to more than 13,000 homes in the area.
Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) crews were seen working to fix the downed line and restore power as soon as possible.
Albuquerque Police, the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident.
The aircraft came down on a street corner in the West Side neighborhood of Albuquerque around 7am Saturday, about six miles from Albuquerque International Sunport Airport
A friend of the victims is comforted at the scene of the fatal hot air balloon crash
Emergency crews on the scene of the deadly crash are seen hiding victims lying by the hot air balloon basket
The deadly crash comes just months after another fatal balloon incident just outside the city of Albuquerque.
In January, a passenger in a hot air balloon was ejected from the basket after a hard landing.
He was taken to hospital but later died from his injuries.
In 2016 in neighboring Texas, 16 died when a hot air balloon hit high-tension power lines before crashing into a pasture, killing all on board.
Federal authorities said at the time it was the worst such disaster in US history.
Albuquerque is a popular destination for hot air balloon rides, with colorful balloons regularly spotted above the skies.
Every October, the city hosts a nine-day event that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators and pilots from around the world.
Five people were flying in the craft at the time. Two men and two women including the male pilot were killed while a fifth victim is in a critical condition in hospital
Crews repair the power line following the collision Saturday that left at least four dead