Five casualties in hot-air balloon accident identified

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Authorities have determined the identities of the five people killed in a hot-air balloon crash on Saturday in New Mexico.

Casualties were Nicholas Meleski, 62, who was the aircraft’s pilot; and his passengers, Susan Montoya, 65, and John Montoya, 61, according to a press release by the New Mexico State Police on Sunday.

Also killed were  Martin Martinez, 62, who was a former police officer at Albuquerque and his 59-year-old wife Mary Martinez. Their deaths were confirmed by Mayor Tim Keller on Saturday during a press conference.

Albuquerque, New Mexico is a ballooning site  favorite and serves as a venue of the International Balloon Festival.

The mishap, according to the police, transpired at about 7:30 a.m.

Initial probe points that the aircraft was caught in a power line and fell into the ground. Its basket was covered in fire.

Superintendent Scott Elder on Sunday confirmed that the victims were affiliated to Albuquerque Public Schools.

He identified Susan Montoya as Georgia O’Keeffe Elementary School’s assistant principal, who was supposed to transfer to another APS school. The balloon ride was a present for her transfer as it is among her “bucket list.”

“There are no words to describe the heartache and trauma the staff at Georgia O’Keeffe was dealing with today,” he uttered.

John, her husband, on the other hand, worked at Sandia High School as a special education assistant. Elder said that Nicholas Meleski was the school crisis counselor’s father.

Meanwhile, former officer Martin Martinez retired from the city’s police department in 2002. He then served as Valley High School’s security sergeant.

Steve Gallegos, on the other hand, was the system police chief of the school.

“He loved his wife. He talked a lot about his wife, his two sons and his two dogs,” according to Gallegos. “He was probably the most honest guy I ever met in my life.”