PNM shares safety tips ahead of Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

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Balloon Fiesta is just 10 days away and, while we hope for smooth sailing during the event, things can potentially turn dangerous.

The professionals at PNM demonstrated what can happen when an object meets 7,200 volts of electricity.

“Touching a balloon, wrapped in powerlines even for just a few milliseconds, could cause a chain reaction that injures both those attempting to provide help as well as anyone within the balloon’s gondola,” said Andrew Cusimano, the operations manager at PNM.

As a part of PNM’s safety plan, crews will be out dedicated to balloon-specific incidents.

“As balloons take off, these PNM line crews may follow the balloonists along their general flight path to quickly respond to any incidents,” Cusimano explained.

Ray Bair, a longtime balloon pilot, says, if you see a balloon caught in some powerlines, don’t go near it.

“They should stay on these 50 feet or so away from the basket,” Bair said.

While it’s rare and unlikely a basket drops from the power line, you should be careful as a rider of how you step out.

 “They want to kind of shuffle their feet. Don’t take long strides because that electricity is like ripples on a pond and you don’t want to go across those ripples,” Bair said.

Though New Mexico has a long streak of good safety with ballooning, five people were killed in a crash in June 2021.

A longtime pilot and four passengers died after the balloon descended, then hit the powerlines and crashed into the busy intersection of Central and Unser.

It was the deadliest hot air balloon crash in New Mexico history. A toxicology report later revealed the pilot had drugs in his system during the crash.

That is a tragedy that crews and pilots hope not to repeat.

“It’s a dangerous sport, an enjoyable sport. If you do it properly, there should be no danger whatsoever,” Bair said.