Pilot arrested after jumping from burning hot air balloon and leaving couple to die
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The man was reportedly placed in custody after receiving treatment for second-degree burns to his face and arm.
On Saturday, Jose Nolasco, 50, surprised his wife, Viridiana Becerril, 39, with a ride through the sky with their 13-year-old daughter, Regina Itzani,
The balloon glided over the pre-Hispanic pyramid site in Teotihuacán, in the State of Mexico.
The family rented the balloon for a surprise birthday trip.
However, the fun day out took a lethal turn when an issue with the balloon’s gas system caused the cabin to become engulfed in flames after it departed around 8 am.
The couple, Jose and Viridiana, are believed to have been burnt to death, leaving behind their daughter, Regina, who was reported to have bravely jumped from the fire to the ground below.
The terrifying moment was captured on film, as onlookers watched Regina and Guzmán leap as the couple perishes in the fire.
Husband and wife in Mexico City die as their hot air balloon bursts into flames and plunges to the ground. Their daughter jumped from the burning basket and is expected to survive. pic.twitter.com/Wf5MkQN3Ug— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) April 2, 2023
Regina is currently being treated in the hospital for a broken arm and second-degree burns.
Guzmán faces two alleged homicide charges, telling agents assigned to the State of Mexico Attorney General's Office that he had abandoned the family as he didn't know how to respond to the emergency, the Mexico Daily News reported.
Viridiana’s mother, Reyna Sarmiento, told the Mexican national newspaper Milenio that Regina hugged her parents just before she leapt from the carriage.
“The girl tells us that the gas tank there, the hydrostatic gas tank, started to light up, and that was what started to burn,” the grandmother said.
“She says her parents hugged her, but she turned away from them, and she jumped.”
The Federal Aviation Agency is leading the investigation and looking into whether the company, Autocinema Retroviso, is licensed to operate hot air balloon service and if it’s covered by insurance in these kinds of accidents.
“It is imperative that these same authorities act effectively in order to cancel the operations of companies that, unfortunately, operate outside the legal framework and sometimes in hiding, affecting the safety of the operations of all of us who operate in the immediate vicinity of the archaeological site of Teotihuacán,” the federation said, as per the Daily Mail.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, only 16 people have died while hot air ballooning between 2002 and 2016 - about one person per year.