A married couple died, while their daughter was seriously 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. Jose Nolasco, 50, and his wife Viridiana Becerril, 38, were killed after their hot air balloon caught fire in the air in Mexico on Saturday, Mexican authorities confirmed.
The couple was from the nearby Caujimalpa de Morelos, 12 kilometers away. Shocked onlookers captured the balloon's explosive descent on camera and uploaded it to social media. The disturbing video also appears to show passengers jumping or appearing to fall the craft, much to the horror of the onlookers.
Tragic End to Holiday
Nolasco and his wife Viridiana Becerril were enjoying a ride through the sky with 13-year-old Regina Itzani on Saturday around 8 am when their hot air balloon got engulfed in flames. The couple couldn't manage to eject from the balloon and were burnt to their deaths. However, their daughter, Itzani, is expected to live, according to the police.
She is said to have leaped from the balloon and suffered second-degree burns and a fractured arm as a result.
Reports concerning her age have so far been conflicted, with some claiming she was 13 and others saying she was 23. The balloon's pilot may have been aboard, but he or she has not yet been located. The balloon had been flying over a pre-Hispanic pyramid site.
Also, local police are yet to provide her age. The incident occurred over the pre-Hispanic ruin site of Teotihuacan, just north of the city, where balloon rides are common among both locals and tourists.
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 metropolis was among the biggest in the world. It was abandoned just before the Aztec Empire rose in the 1300s. In its height between 100 B.C. and 750 AD.
The tragic incident which was shot by a bystander shows the hot air balloon was seen deflating as flames consumed the basket below, where the Mexican family was enjoying their flight.
The onlooker could be overheard saying in Spanish: "My God, people are falling" as a person plummeted to the ground.
It wasn't immediately clear if it was Itzani or the hot air balloon's pilot, who is reported to have been the second person to jump from the basket as it was being consumed by flames. The pilot is yet to be located and identified.
Stunned and Shocked
Itzani's grandmother, Reyna Gloria Sarmiento, told the local press that the teenager hadn't yet been informed of her parents' deaths. "It was the birthday of my daughter Viridiana, Regina's mum, and they had prepared this ride as as a surprise for her," she said.
Gloria said that her granddaughter had hugged her parents before leaping out of the hot air balloon and that she was "awake" and stable in the hospital.
Police would not confirm on Sunday if the pilot was the second person seen jumping in the video. Mexican police were spotted on Saturday at the scene of the balloon's crash, covering what seemed to be the bodies of the couple.
Local authorities verified that the family was from Caujimalpa de Morelos, a community west of Mexico City.
According to Mexico City police, an investigation has been launched to determine what caused the collision.
Initial local reports suggest the unexpected flame may have been caused by a malfunction in the fuel storage mechanism of the balloon.
Meanwhile, town hall representatives in Cuajimalpa de Morelos, the family's hometown, released a statement expressing their sorrow over the event.
"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," the statement read.
"Our solidarity and prayers are with Regina and we wish her a speedy recovery."
The incident comes just over a week after another balloon crashed that was caught on camera when a tourist-filled plane in China's Guizhou Province's Anshun plummeted into a lake before starting to sink.
The startled onlookers can be heard shouting in the video, as the balloon is being carried across the water by the winds which was later posted on Douyin, China's version of TikTok.
The basket of the balloon comes dangerously close to submerging entirely underwater at one point, but the pilot used the gas burner to keep the balloon inflated and prevent it from sinking.
Rescuers eventually arrive and pull the passengers - including one child - ashore. According to local media sites, no one was hurt in the collision.