“The ball struck the upper threads – the balloon basket hugged the upper thread, caught fire and crashed into the intersection,” APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos told CNN. “Unfortunately, when police and firefighters arrived, they found four people dead on the scene.”
Former officer named as one of the victims
Retired DPA officer Martin Martinez, 59, and his wife Mary Martinez, 62, were among those who died, the mayor said at a press conference.
“Their families are in deep pain right now,” Keller said.
Martinez worked in security at Albuquerque Public Schools, according to Police Chief Harold Medina.
“Sergeant Martinez will be forever remembered for his lifelong dedication, courage and selflessness to the law enforcement profession,” the school district said in a written statement. “He had a long career with both the Albuquerque Police Department and the Albuquerque Public Schools Police Department.”
Although Martinez retired from the police force several years ago, a number of active duty officers who responded to the scene have already worked with him, according to the chief.
“We had to send a number of officers home,” Medina said. “It took its toll on them.”
Police do not publicly name the three remaining victims until their families are informed.
The accident remains under investigation
Electricity has been fully restored to affected customers in the incident area, Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) spokeswoman Shannon Jackson told CNN.
“Everyone at PNM is deeply saddened by this tragic loss,” said Jackson. “We are thinking of family and friends affected by today’s events. We will continue to do all we can to support first responders in this evolving situation.”
PNM was unable to re-energize the crash-affected transmission line or restore power until the investigation was completed, Jackson said.
The accident is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transport Safety Council.
The FAA identified the aircraft as a Cameron 0-120 hot air balloon.
Hot air ballooning is a popular recreational activity in Albuquerque. The city’s International Balloon Fiesta is an iconic annual event each fall, featuring hundreds of balloons.
CNN’s Ganesh Setty, Andy Rose, Chuck Johnston and Kate Trafecante contributed to this report.