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Two hurt in balloon crash

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By Associated Press

 

RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — A balloon flying in Albuquerque's International Balloon Fiesta hit a power line Wednesday, sending two men to the hospital with burns and injuries from a 40-foot fall, festival officials said.

The balloon got tangled in the lines in Rio Rancho about 9:15 a.m., according to spokesman Tom Garrity. When the passenger reached out to free the gondola, he was shocked, Garrity said.

The balloon was freed, but the gondola crashed to the ground.

Garrity says the passenger and the pilot have been taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital with burns and injuries. Their conditions were not immediately known.

Although photos from the scene showed flames, Garrity said it was unclear if the gondola caught fire.

"We know there was arcing of electricity," he said. "We are still trying to figure out the specifics."

Rio Rancho police spokeswoman Janet Garcia said pictures showed some burns along the top of the gondola, but it did not appear the gondola went up in flames.

The balloon, New Mexico Sunrise, was registered to pilot Mark Kilgore of Albuquerque, Garrity said. But it was not immediately known if Kilgore or a secondary pilot was flying the balloon.

Pamela Correa, general manager of the nearby Ask Academy, told the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/19zXgQP) that she was in a morning meeting when she saw the balloon smoking about a quarter-mile down the hill from her building.

"I saw the balloon coming down. It looked like it was going to land," she said.

But then the lights went out for a moment, and she said she saw the gondola was almost completely billowing with smoke.

"I could just see the blown-out piece and the smoke," she said, referring to the top of the balloon. "And you could tell that there was something wrong."

She said the balloon chase crew was there the moment the balloon landed and emergency crews responded quickly.

"You've seen pictures of it when things go wrong," she said. "But I've personally never witnessed it until now."

On Saturday, the opening day of the nine-day festival of more than 600 balloons, a 61-one-year-old woman broke her leg during a hard landing.

Rio Rancho is a northwest Albuquerque suburb.