A hot air balloon struck a broadcast tower near the city’s downtown today and crashed, killing four people.
Three men, all licensed hot air balloon pilots, and a woman riding in the gondola were killed, police said.
Radio station WTVN-AM reported that the balloon took off from Mohawk Middle School, but no students from the school were on board.
The balloon drifted northwest and passed over the downtown before it crashed about two miles west of downtown, in a wooded area behind the studios of television station WBNS.
Lt. Randy Thatcher of the State Highway Patrol said the balloon went into a steep climb to clear the broadcast tower.
“It snagged on the top of the antenna and fell,” Thatcher said. “Half the descent was fairly slow until all the air was out of the envelope. Then it fell straight down very fast.”
John Remy, a reporter for WTVN, said he was on his way to work when he saw the balloon hit the tower, which is 1,069 feet tall. He said the balloon appeared to fall about 900 feet.
“I was sort of watching this balloon, and I said to myself ‘It looks awful close to the tower, but that’s just my line of sight,’ ” he said. “But then it hit it, popped and just burst into shreds.
“It went straight down. . . . It was a terrible thing to see.”