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Archive for Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Woman dies in hot air balloon accident

October 9, 2007

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— One of hundreds of balloons in town for a festival tipped after snagging a utility line Monday, sending a woman plummeting at least 70 feet to her death.

Three other women in the gondola were hospitalized - two with broken legs - after the balloon broke free and crash-landed. The tragic ride cast a pall over one of New Mexico's most popular and most colorful events.

"Our balloon community is a close-knit family and a time like this is difficult for all of us," said Gary Bennett, president of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

The annual nine-day event draws hundreds of balloonists from around the world and hundreds of thousands of spectators.

The balloon, named "Heavenly Ride," snagged a utility line at 7:45 a.m. The pilot threw down a tether to a pickup truck on the ground in an apparent attempt to reel the balloon down and free it, a state police spokesman said.

But the tether broke and the balloon bounced back up, causing its gondola to tip. The woman fell more than 70 feet.

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