(CNN) — A wayward hot air balloon hit power lines Wednesday morning during an event in New Mexico, severely burning the two men in it and causing the balloon to plummet some 40 feet to the ground.

The accident occurred during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, a celebration dubbed by organizers as the “World’s Largest Ballooning Event.”

The two men, identified as 59-year-old Mark Kilgore and 66-year-old Daniel Lovato, were rushed to the University of New Mexico Hospital to be treated for burns, event organizers said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the pilot, his passenger, their chase crew and families,” said Tom Garrity, a spokesman for the balloon event. “We will address aspects of this accident with our pilots at our next pilot briefing in hopes that the sequence of events will not repeat themselves.”

How safe is hot air ballooning?

The event goes from October 5 to October 13 and features more than 500 hot air balloons and competitive flights where pilots compete for cash.

Wednesday, according to organizers, was a day that participants took a break from competition to be part of something called the “Flight of the Nations,” an aerial parade of sorts were participants fly their nation’s flag from their balloon.

Neighbors said the crash of the balloon was dramatic and scary.

“There was an explosion,” Larry Willock, a witness, told CNN affiliate KRQE. “It shot flames out 20 feet to the side. At that point the gondola really started to drop.”

This is not the first incident during this year’s balloon fiesta, according to the affiliate. On Saturday, a balloon hit a power pole. On Sunday, a balloon hit power lines, KRQE reported. But in those cases, both balloons were able to make safe landings.

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —The Special Shapes Rodeo did not take off as planned Thursday morning because strong winds.

Balloons will inflate in a static display, but won’t lift off the ground. Thursday morning’s cancellation snaps a streak of five straight days of Balloon Fiesta flying.

A Glowdeo is scheduled for Thursday night, but strong winds may put that in jeopardy as well.


By Aaron Hilf

Officials: Fiesta has $90 million economic impact

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta brings in thousands of visitors to the area, which has a big impact on the local economy.

Officials say nearly 800,000 people will visit Balloon Fiesta Park during the nine-day event; it’s the largest tourist event in New Mexico.Balloon Fiesta’s director of media relations, Tom Garrity, said the event has a $90 million economic impact in the state. In a 2011 study, it was estimated that the event generated $15 million in tax revenue.

Officials said with a large number of people coming in from out of town, money is spent in local restaurants, hotels and shops.

But Albuquerque isn’t the only place to get a boost. “It’s not just Albuquerque, the whole state benefits from Balloon Fiesta,” said Garrity.

Garrity said while many people come to Albuquerque to see the balloons, they also visit surrounding areas like Santa Fe, helping boost that city’s economy, too.

By Alana Grimstad
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —It was an earlier start for balloons on Sunday, and the mass ascension was met with clear skies and soft landings.

The dawn patrol took off at about 6:30 a.m. and the mass ascension took place about an hour later. At 6:40 a.m. the green flag was flown, signaling that the mass ascension was on.

Winds were blowing south. The box was not in effect.

There were no reports of serious injuries.


Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

“…For more than three decades, guests from all over the world come to Albuquerque to celebrate ballooning at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. ”

For more than three decades, guests from all over the world come to Albuquerque to celebrate ballooning at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This year’s event, October 5-13, 2013, marks its 41st anniversary.

The New Mexico skies are painted as hundreds of balloons lift off from Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta Park. Nothing rivals the power of Mass Ascension on crisp early mornings as these graceful giants leave the ground to take their place in the cerulean desert sky. For ballooning fans worldwide, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a pilgrimage. There’s something for everyone to enjoy . . . whimsical special shapes filled with equal parts of hot air and wonder, and Balloon Glows that create a magical night landscape for spectators to wander. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta will leave you awestruck and wanting more.

From its modest beginnings in 1972 with 13 balloons launching from a shopping mall parking lot, the Balloon Fiesta has grown to multiple events launching year-round at the custom-designed, 365-acre Balloon Fiesta Park. The signature event remains Balloon Fiesta—which, with over 600 balloons, is the largest ballooning event on earth, the most photographed event on earth, and the largest annual international event held in the United States.

Balloon Fiesta Park is located north of Alameda Boulevard, one mile west of I-25.

The 2013 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta started on a great note with virtually no wind, measuring ZERO on my own weather station. Was a delight to see all of the balloons in the sky as this was my first Balloon Fiesta since moving here a year ago right after the Fiesta.