New Mexico Hot Air Balloon Crash Victims Identified

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Harry Wilmerding Contributor
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The five victims in Saturday’s hot air balloon crash in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have been identified, according to New Mexico State Police. 

New Mexico State Police identified the pilot Nicholas Meleski, 62, and passengers Susan Montoya, 65, Mary Martinez, 59, Martin Martinez, 62, and John Montoya, 61, the police department said in a press release

All five of the victims were from the Albuquerque area, the police department said.

John Montoya was brought to an Albuquerque hospital and died of his injuries, the press release said. 

The remaining four passengers died in the crash, the press release said. (RELATED: Man Dies Hiking Grand Canyon, Second Death In Less Than A Week)

The balloon struck a powerline which caused the basket to burst into flames, the press release said.

Police arrived on the scene and extinguished the fire, the press release said. 

All five victims had connections to the Albuquerque Public School system, superintendent Scott Elder said in a press release.

Martin Martinez was a retired member of the Albuquerque Police Department before joining the Albuquerque Public School system, the press release said.

“For Albuquerque Public Schools, this loss is unprecedented,” Albuquerque Public School Superintendent Scott Elder said in the press release.  

Joshua Perez was at a nearby gym when he heard the crash and rushed to the scene.

“I was just thinking ‘save these people, save these people,’ and you could just see them in the ground. No one was moving,” Perez told KOB4 News.

Perez said the crash sounded like gunshots.

“It was a loud ‘boom, boom.’ Quick three. And then that’s when I see the balloon already going by itself, and I was like where’s the basket?,” Perez said.

Perez also said that he turned off the balloon’s propane tank to prevent it from exploding, KOB4 News reported.

“To see a balloon go down like this, it’s heartbreaking,” Perez said.

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