Balloon crash victim remains in critical condition

Posted at: 10/10/2013 6:40 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Balloon crash victim Daniel Lovato remained in the burn intensive care unit at UNM Hospital Thursday night with burns over half his body and his left arm amputated. Mark Kilgore, who was piloting the balloon when it struck power lines Wednesday morning, was treated for less severe burns and released from the hospital Wednesday night.

Kilgore’s “New Mexico Sunrise” balloon struck a power line on the east side of Rio Rancho and set off an explosion that sent the smoking gondola falling to the ground 40 feet below. Lovato was the balloon’s crew chief. Some witnesses think the balloon may have been heading for a landing in a nearby vacant lot, but at this point we just don’t know what went wrong.

Sam Parks is the Fiesta Balloonmeister, a legendary pilot and a veteran flyer. He will not second-guess or speculate about what the plot did – but he will talk about power lines.

“You’re always looking for power lines, particularly when you’re coming in for a landing,” Parks said. “That’s because the landing process is when you most encounter those kinds of situations where the power line could be close to you.”

Parks said all of a balloon pilot’s instruction and training is aimed at preventing the kind of accident that happened Wednesday morning.

“When we do see a power line that is unexpected and it’s unavoidable, we’re always trained to rip the balloon out and allow the balloon to lay over the lines instead of hitting the power line itself,” Parks said.

That didn’t happen in the Wednesday morning class. Federal investigators will try to find out more about the accident in the days ahead.