Police identify 5 people killed in a hot-air balloon crash in New Mexico

3 years ago 2222

(CNN)All five victims in Saturday's fatal hot-air balloon wreck have been identified, authorities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said.

New Mexico State Police in a Sunday news release identified the pilot as Nicholas Meleski, 62, and passenger Susan Montoya, 65. John Montoya, 61, was taken to a hospital and died of his injuries, the release said.

CNN previously reported that retired Albuquerque police officer Martin Martinez, 62, and his wife, Mary Martinez, 59, had died. Mayor Tim Keller named them in a news conference Saturday.

Albuquerque is a popular site for ballooning and hosts the International Balloon Festival each fall.

The accident happened about 7:30 a.m. local time Saturday, police said.

NMSP said that the initial investigation found that the balloon struck an overhead power line as it descended toward the ground. The basket became engulfed in flames.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the incident, as CNN previously reported.

All five victims had ties to city's public school system

The victims were all connected to Albuquerque Public Schools, Superintendent Scott Elder said Sunday.

Susan Montoya was an assistant principal at Georgia O'Keeffe Elementary School, he said. The balloon ride was a farewell gift to Montoya, who was moving to another APS school in the fall. Elder said the ride was a "bucket list" item for Montoya.

"There are no words to describe the heartache and trauma the staff at Georgia O'Keeffe was dealing with today," he said.

Montoya's husband, John, was a special education assistant at Sandia High School, and Nicholas Meleski was the father of a school crisis counselor, according to Elder.

Martin Martinez retired from the Albuquerque Police Department in 2002 and was a security sergeant at Valley High School, said Steve Gallegos, the school system police chief.

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

APS deployed a crisis team to meet with the impacted schools and staff Monday, Kristine Meurer, executive director of the school system's Student, Family, and Community Supports Division, said Sunday.

"They dedicated their lives to children and that's honorable and noble," Elder said.

CNN's Kay Jones contributed to this report.

Read Entire Article