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Albuquerque hot air balloon crash that killed 5 is deadliest in city’s history


By Maggie Krajewski

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    ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (KOAT, KOAT-D2) — Here’s what we know about the deadly hot air balloon crash that killed five people Saturday morning in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque police say the gondola of a balloon detached from the envelope and hit a power line around 7 a.m. Saturday. The gondola crashed, falling 100 feet with five people inside by the CVS Pharmacy near Central Avenue and Unser Boulevard. The envelope was found in the backyard of a home about a mile south of the crash site.

Witnesses say when the gondola crashed it was on fire and several bystanders tried to help put that fire out. One viewer video shows people yelling for a fire extinguisher and then a man running over to extinguish the blaze.

Investigators say it is not yet clear what events led up to the crash.


State Police released the names of all five victims early Sunday morning.

Pilot, Nicholas Meleski, 62.

John Montoya, 61.

Susan Montoya, 65.

Martin Martinez, 59, a former APD and APS officer and his wife Mary Martinez, 62.

All five victims were from Albuquerque.

Martin, John and Susan all worked with Albuquerque Public Schools.


“It is with a heavy heart that we share news of the sudden and tragic loss of Sgt. Martin Martinez and his wife Mary, who died early Saturday in a hot air ballooning accident.

Sgt. Martinez will forever be remembered for his lifelong dedication, courage, and selflessness to the profession of law enforcement. He had long careers with both the Albuquerque Police Department and the Albuquerque Public Schools Police Department.

We extend our deepest condolences to the Martinez family as well as members of the APS Police Department who loved, admired, and respected Sgt. Martinez. APS will provide counseling services to any employee struggling with this unexpected death,” read a statement from Superintendent Scott Elder with APS.


1982: Four people were killed, and four people were injured when liquid propane escaped, vaporized and ignited the gondola after a normal landing.

1990: Two men were killed during the 1990 Balloon Fiesta when their balloon crashed into power lines and burst into flames.

1993: Two men were killed when their balloon hit power lines, the severed gondola plunged about 90 feet into the ground.

2007: A woman was killed after she fell 60 to 70 feet after the hot air balloon she was riding in got snagged on a power line on I-25 and Montano, then suddenly broke free causing her to fall.

2008: One person was killed and three others were injured after balloon hit power lines off 528 north of Rio Rancho.

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