ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The first Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta mass ascension came off safely Saturday although a Dawn Patrol passenger was injured earlier during a hard landing.
Earlier worries that Friday's winds wouldn't calm down in time for the dawn launches evaporated into the cloudless sky above Balloon Fiesta Park.
Fiesta officials reported about 550 balloons launched beginning shortly after dawn with all landing safely by about 10:30 a.m.
Some pilots, however, chose to stay tethered as breezes made some landings tricky.
The only reported incident involved a passenger flying with the Dawn Patrol, eight balloons sent up in the darkness to test wind and weather conditions before a decision is made on the mass launch. The 61-year-old woman suffered a broken leg when her balloon made a hard landing at Arroyo del Oso Golf Course near Osuna Road NE and Lousiana Boulevard.
She was taken to a hospital for treatment. Her name has not been released.
Even though it was a beautiful day for flying, spectators had to bundle up as temperatures hovered around freezing, which prompted this advice from one young visitor.
"It'd be really fun if you went to the Balloon Fiesta," Isabella Vanbibber told KRQE News 13. "But it's really cold when you go early."
The 42nd annual fiesta continues through next weekend. Another mass ascension is scheduled Sunday morning with a balloon glow and fireworks in the evening.
The Americas Challenge cross-country gas-balloon race, which had been scheduled to launch Saturday, now is scheduled to lift off at 6 p.m. Sunday.
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