An annual hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque, N.M. ended abruptly for two participants Wednesday when their gondola hit a power line, caught on fire and subsequently crashed down more than 40 feet, leaving both passengers with severe burns, local police said.
The two passengers, identified as crew chief Daniel Lovato, 66, and pilot Mark Kilgore, 59, were participating in the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Flight of the Nations Mass Ascension festival early Wednesday morning, Rio Rancho, N.M., police said.
The initial investigation suggested Kilgore was attempting to land the balloon when the basket hit power lines and caught on fire, resulting in the fall, authorities said.
When a passenger reached out to free the gondola, he was shocked, Balloon Fiesta spokesman Tom Garrity told ABC affiliate KOAT in Albuquerque. Both men were conscious when authorities arrived on scene, police said.
Lovato and Kilgore were both taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital, police told ABCNews.com. Lovato, who sustained the majority of the burn injuries to his face, chest and arms, was taken into surgery.
“When our personnel arrived on the scene, we were told by them that this individual’s burns were pretty bad,” Rio Rancho Public Relations Officer Janet Garcia told ABCNews.com. “We know that when the gondola hit the power line and was on the ground, it was chaos after that.”
The hospital confirmed to ABC News that
Kilgore, who received burns to his head, was released from the hospital, the hospital reported. Lovato still remained hospitalized, and his condition is listed as “unknown,” hospital officials said.
Authorities told ABC News they were investigating the crash.