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Pilot Arrested for Jumping and Leaving Couple to Die in Burning Hot Air Balloon

On April 1, a hot air balloon ride over a pre-Hispanic pyramid site in Teotihuacán, State of Mexico turned tragic. The balloon, which was rented by a family for a surprise birthday trip, encountered an issue with its gas system, causing the cabin to catch fire. The pilot, Victor Guzmán, then jumped 16 feet from the burning balloon and fled the scene, leaving a husband and wife, José Nolasco and Viridiana Becerril, to die. The couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Regina Itzani, survived after leaping from the stricken aircraft before it hit the ground but remains hospitalized with a broken arm and second-degree burns.

Guzmán was later arrested after being discharged from the hospital, where he was treated for burns covering 50 percent of his body. He told agents assigned to the State of Mexico Attorney General’s Office that he had abandoned the balloon because he didn’t know how to respond to the emergency.

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The Federal Aviation Agency is leading the investigation and looking into whether the company, Autocinema Retroviso, is licensed to operate the hot air balloon service and if it had proper insurance to cover accidents.

The incident is truly heartbreaking, with witnesses claiming that Guzmán jumped off the balloon as it hovered in flames about 16 feet above ground, leaving the family behind. Reyna Sarmiento, the mother of Viridiana Becerril, recounted the harrowing moment when her granddaughter, Regina Itzani, jumped from the burning balloon. She said, “The girl tells us that the gas tank there, the hydrostatic gas tank, started to light up and that was what started to burn. She says her parents hugged her, but she turned away from them and she jumped.”

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This tragedy underscores the importance of proper safety measures and protocols for hot air balloon rides. It is a stark reminder that adventure activities should not come at the cost of human lives.

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