“The balloon hit the top wires — the gondola of the balloon skirted along the top wire, caught on fire and crashed into the intersection,” APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos told CNN. “Unfortunately when police and fire officials arrived they found four deceased on site.”
Former officer named as one of the victims
Retired APD officer Martin Martinez, 59, and his wife Mary Martinez, 62, were among the deceased, the mayor said at a news conference.
“Their families are experiencing deep suffering right now,” Keller said.
Martinez was working in security for Albuquerque Public Schools, according to Police Chief Harold Medina.
“Sgt. Martinez will forever be remembered for his lifelong dedication, courage, and selflessness to the profession of law enforcement,” the school district said in a written statement. “He had long careers 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 responding to the scene previously worked with him, according to the chief.
“We did have to send a number of officers home,” Medina said. “It took its toll on them.”
Police are not publicly naming the remaining three victims until their families are notified.
The accident remains under investigation
Power has been fully restored to affected customers in the area of the incident, Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) spokesperson Shannon Jackson told CNN.
“Everyone at PNM is deeply saddened by this tragic loss,” Jackson said. “We are thinking about the family and friends affected by today’s events. We will continue to do everything we can to support first responders in this evolving situation.”
PNM was not able to re-energize the transmission line affected by the crash or restore power until the investigation was complete, Jackson said.
The accident is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board.
The FAA identified the aircraft as a Cameron 0-120 hot air balloon.
Hot-air ballooning is a popular recreational activity in Albuquerque. Tthe city’s International Balloon Fiesta is a signature annual event every autumn, with hundreds of balloons participating.
CNN’s Ganesh Setty, Andy Rose, Chuck Johnston and Kate Trafecante contributed to this report.