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Hot air balloon explosion in California injures four

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A hot air balloon exploded after landing in Southern California on Saturday, injuring four people aboard, three of them seriously, authorities said.

The hot air balloon landed uneventfully on a dirt road near Temecula and the explosion occurred afterward while the occupants were still in the gondola, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said in an email.

One person was taken to a burn center, two people were transported to hospitals with trauma centers and another individual was also hospitalized, the Riverside County Fire Department said in a statement. It listed three of the occupants as having major injuries.

Authorities did not give any indication what might have caused the explosion. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the incident.

Gregor said six occupants were in the gondola when the balloon exploded, but the Riverside County Fire Department's statement said five people were aboard and that one of those people was unhurt.

The Temecula area, which is 50 miles north of San Diego, is a wine growing region and hot air balloon rides are a popular attraction for visitors.

Authorities did not disclose the operator of the balloon.

A spokesman for the Riverside County Fire Department declined to comment further on the incident.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Kevin Gray and Eric Beech)

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