Victims in Saturday's hot air balloon crash identified

·1 min read

Jun. 27—ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — State police have released the names of all five people who died in Saturday's hot air balloon crash on the West Side.

In a news release issued Sunday morning, State Police spokesman Dusty Francisco confirmed that the pilot was Nicholas Meleski, 62.

The Office of the Medical Investigator also pronounced three passengers dead at the scene: Susan Montoya, 65; Mary Martinez, 59 and Martin Martinez, 62. A fourth passenger, John Montoya, 61, was rushed to a hospital after the crash but succumbed to his injuries.

All five of the victims were from Albuquerque.

Martin Martinez was a retired Albuquerque Police Department officer who was working for the Albuquerque Public Schools police force at the time of his death. APD told reporters Saturday that the Martinezes were among the five who died in the crash on Saturday, although the agency transposed their ages.

The hot air balloon struck power lines and crashed at Central and Unser Saturday morning.

Albuquerque Fire Rescue crews responded to the crash at Central and Unser at around 7 a.m. AFR spokesman Tom Ruiz said crews found that a balloon gondola had struck power lines and fallen 100 feet to the median on Unser — at some point catching on fire.

"The balloon envelope was found at a separate location south of the incident," Ruiz said. "The cause of the initial crash is unknown at this time."

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash. The State Police Investigations Bureau, Crime Scene Unit, Crash Reconstruction Unit and Aerial Drone Team assisted in the investigation, Francisco said.

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