Albuquerque hot air balloon crash – Shock pics show basket smashed on road after it DETACHED and fell to the ground
SHOCKING photos show a hot air balloon's basket smashed on the ground after it detached and fell in Albuquerque on Saturday.
The tragic fall killed four passengers and the pilot after the balloon split from the basket, sending it crashing into a power line before falling to the ground.
It's unclear at this time what caused the gondola to break off from the balloon, which floated into the air after dropping the basket.
The victims ranged in age from 59 to 65 years old.
They were identified Sunday as passengers Susan and John Montoya, Mary and Martin Martinez and pilot Nicholas Meleski, according to KOB-4.
The balloon's basket crashed down on a street corner in the West Side of the New Mexico city around 7am Saturday.
The balloon piece was later found in the backyard of a home about a mile away.
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said that citizens who saw the crash came over with fire extinguishers to try to help the victims.
But tragically, four were pronounced dead at the scene and the fifth died later at the hospital.
"We want to thank all the individuals who helped out today. There were greats acts of heroics done by citizens," Medina said.
One of the victims, Martin Martinez, 59, was a retired Albuquerque police office and sergeant in the Albuquerque Public Schools Police Department, cops said.
He and his wife Mary both died in the crash. Their son is currently a transport officer in the department as well.
Medina said that responding to the crash was one of the hardest moments in his career.
"In 26 years, it was one of the scenes that hit me the most," Medina said.
"There were officers on the scene who worked with Martin and we did have to send some officers home because they were disturbed by what had occurred and it took its toll on them."
Albuquerque Public Schools also issued a statement mourning the sergeant.
"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," it said.
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