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Victims identified in New Mexico hot-air balloon crash

Victims identified in New Mexico hot-air balloon crash

All five victims in the deadly hot-air balloon crash in New Mexico were identified by state authorities on Sunday.

Three more names of the deceased were released Sunday morning — Susan Montoya, 65, John Montoya, 61, and pilot Nicholas Meleski, 62, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Retired cop Martin Martinez, 59, and his wife Mary, 62, were identified on Saturday.

The group was soaring high above Albuquerque when their passenger basket detached from the balloon and plummeted 100 feet, crashing into a power line and onto the ground at around 7 a.m. on Saturday.

John Montoya was the only passenger to survive the fall, authorities said. He was rushed to a University of New Mexico Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries, KOAT reported.

Federal officials examine the gondola at the scene of the fatal balloon crash at Unser and Central SW on June 26, 2021.
Federal officials examine the gondola at the scene of the fatal balloon crash at Unser and Central SW on June 26, 2021.
© Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Wire

Local authorities said the cause of the crash has yet to be determined, the Journal said. The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting an investigation.

Albuquerque is known for its world famous hot-air balloon community, and is home to the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Balloon pilots gathered at the scene of the crash on Saturday to mourn Meleski, who they remembered as an upbeat guy and a “great pilot.”

The deflated hot air balloon is seen falling from the sky in New Mexico.
The deflated hot air balloon is seen falling from the sky in New Mexico.
GELACIO RAMIREZ via REUTERS

“Every time he opened his mouth, it would be something to be learned or experienced through his excitable story, his love for the sport and his love for life,” fellow pilot Chris Jones told KOB-TV.

Friend Bill Noe said Meleski would “do anything for ya.”

“If you were down in the dumps, he’d try to cheer you up, ‘Come on, let’s go!’ If you were hesitant about putting your happy face on, he’d do what he could to help you change,” Noe said.

Albuquerque Fire Rescue crews arrive at the scene of the deadly crash on June 26, 2021.
Albuquerque Fire Rescue crews arrive at the scene of the deadly crash on June 26, 2021.
Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP

“It’s a big loss when you lose not only a pilot, but passengers as well. It’s tough to take.”

About the author

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James Partridge

James has worked in various news organizations and now aims to make Stock Market Pioneer one of the best and fastest growing news websites in the U.S. He contributes to the US and World sections.

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