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Two hurt in hot air balloon accident at Albuquerque festival

By Zelie Pollon

SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) - Two passengers taking part in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta were injured when their multicolored hot air balloon hit an electrical wire and plunged 40 feet to the ground, an official said on Thursday.

Witnesses to Wednesday's accident told local news stations the hot air balloon got tangled in electrical wires. When one of the crew members tried to disentangle the craft, he was seriously burned on his face and hands.

"The balloon called New Mexico Sunrise struck power lines and set off a series of events that resulted in the balloon dropping more than 40 feet to the ground," said Tom Garrity, president of The Garrity Group and head of media relations for the Fiesta.

Both occupants were transported to University of New Mexico Hospital.

Pilot Mark Kilgore, 59, and passenger, Danny Lovato, 66, were taken to the hospital with severe burns. Hospital officials said Lovato remained in critical condition on Thursday.

Photos of the accident showed flames around the craft, but Garrity said the incident is still under investigation.

The International Balloon Fiesta is the largest of its kind in the world, attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers and filling the skies over Albuquerque with more than 550 balloons.

On Saturday a 61-year-old female passenger broke her leg when the balloon she was riding in made a hard landing, Garrity said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)

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