ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The basket of a hot air balloon tipped after the craft got stuck, sending a female passenger on a 60- to 70-foot fall to her death Monday, state police said.
The balloon snagged a fiberoptic line running above a power line about 8 a.m. during an annual balloon festival. The pilot threw down a tether to a pickup truck on the ground to reel the balloon down and free it, state police spokesman Andrew Tingwall said.
But the tether broke, and the balloon flew back up, causing its gondola to tip and the woman to fall to the ground, Tingwall said.
Paramedics tried to revive the woman, Rosemary Wooley Phillips, 60, of California, in a dirt field where she fell, but were unsuccessful, he said. The balloon, meanwhile, flew across a road near Interstate 25 and crash landed, Tingwall said.
Phillips was one of five people on board. Tingwall did not know the conditions of the other three passengers or the pilot.
The crash site is about three miles from the launch site for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, a nine-day event that began Saturday and features mass ascensions of balloons, events for special shaped balloons and competitions for pilots.
There have been fatalities in previous years.
One woman was killed during the 1998 event when a balloon plowed into two sets of power lines before plummeting about 30 feet to the ground at Kirtland Air Force Base on Albuquerque's south side.
During the 1993 fiesta, two men were killed when their balloon hit power lines, severing the gondola, which plunged about 90 feet to the ground. Two other men died during the 1990 fiesta when their balloon crashed into power lines and burst into flames.
Four people died and five were injured during the 1982 fiesta when propane tanks on a large balloon exploded.