A married couple died and their daughter was injured after a hot air balloon they were riding in caught fire – moments after they posed for a final family photo in front of the aircraft.
The accident took place in Mexico City Saturday, and claimed the lives of two victims, Jose Nolasco, 50, and wife Viridiana Becerril, 38, Mexican authorities have confirmed. The pair were from nearby Caujimalpa de Morelos, a city 12 miles away.
Video posted to social media by horrified onlookers shows the balloon descending rapidly as it bursts into flames. The chilling footage also shows occupants appearing to either fall or jump from the craft, all to onlookers’ dismay.
The pair’s daughter, identified as Regina Itzani, was also on the balloon, cops said, but is expected to survive. She is thought to have jumped from the balloon, sustaining a broken arm and second-degree burns in the process.
Reports concerning her age have so far been conflicted, with some indicating she was 13 and others saying she was 23. A pilot also may have been on the balloon – which had been flying over a pre-Hispanic pyramid site – but has yet to be located.
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Her age was not listed by local police. The incident took place over the pre-Hispanic ruin site of Teotihuacan, just north of the city – a popular site for both locals and tourists to participate in balloon rides.
Best known for its twin Temples of the Sun and Moon, was once a large city that housed over 100,000 pre-Aztec peoples and encompassed roughly 8 square miles.
The ancient city was one of the largest in the world at its height between 100 B.C. and 750 AD, before it was abandoned before the rise of the Aztecs in the 1300s.
Footage of taken at the historic site shows the hot air balloon deflating as flames quickly engulf the basket below, where the Mexican family had been enjoying their ride.
An onlooker can be overheard saying, in Spanish: ‘My God, people are falling’ as a person plummets to the ground – with another seen jumping soon after. The craft also appears to be tethered to the ground, though cops have yet to confirm why.
It was not immediately clear if that person was Regina, or the pilot of the hot air balloon who is said to have also been on the aircraft.
Police would not confirm whether the second person seen jumping out of the basket in the footage was the pilot. His whereabouts, as of Sunday, are still unknown.
Mexican police were seen at the site of where the balloon came down Saturday, covering what is presumed to be the couples’ bodies with a tarp.
Local officials confirmed the family hailed from Caujimalpa de Morelos, a community just west of Mexico City.
The cause of the accident is currently under investigation, police in Mexico City said Sunday.
Yesterday, a selfie photo of the family taken moments before the hot air balloon burst into flames, Reports circulating on social media as suggest the ride was a surprise birthday present organized by Regina and her dad, for mom Viridiana.
Reyna Gloria Sarmiento, Regina’s grandmother, told local press the teenager had yet to be told her parents had died.
She added: ‘It was the birthday of my daughter Viridiana, Regina’s mom, and they had prepared this ride as as a surprise for her.’
Saying her granddaughter was ‘conscious’ and stable in hospital, Gloria also revealed she had hugged her parents before jumping out of the hot air balloon.
An investigation into the tragedy is ongoing. Initial local reports said it could be linked to a fault in the fuel storage system.
Town hall officials in Caujimalpa de Morelos west of Mexico City where the family came from, said in a statement: ‘We send our condolences to the family, friends and acquaintances of Jose Nolasco and Viridiana Becerril who died in the hot air balloon tragedy in Teotihuacan.
‘Our solidarity and prayers are with Regina and we wish her a speedy recovery.’
Best known for its twin Temples of the Sun and Moon, was once a large city that housed over 100,000 pre-Aztec peoples and encompassed roughly 8 square miles
The incident comes just over a week after another filmed balloon crash, where a plane packed with tourists crashed into a lake in Anshun, Guizhou Province, in China, before starting to sink.
In the footage – shared later on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok – horrified witnesses were seen screaming as the balloon is dragged through the water by the winds.
At one point, the balloon’s basket nearly disappears underwater completely, but the pilot used the gas burner to keep the balloon inflated and stop it from sinking.
Rescuers eventually arrive and pull the passengers – including one child – ashore.
Local media outlets reported that no one was injured in the crash.
Globally, there are approximately 3,000 hot air balloon accidents per year – though fatalities are somewhat rare.
From 2000 through mid-2016, only 21 fatalities were recorded in the United States.
That said, similar accidents involving hot air balloons happened all over the world last year, like an incident in Egypt, where a hot air balloon carrying 28 Western tourists plummeted from 200ft before crash landing blowing off course reportedly hitting another balloon mid-air.
Two passengers were ‘lightly injured’ in the crash in July 2022 and required medical treatment in a nearby hospital.