Pilot’s drug use blamed for deadly hot-air balloon crash that killed all 5 people on board

A fatal hot-air balloon crash in New Mexico that claimed the lives of five people has recently been attributed to the pilot’s use of cocaine and cannabis, according to investigators. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the pilot’s recent drug use likely impaired his abilities, leading to the fatal accident that took place on June 26, 2021.

The NTSB’s final report revealed that the 62-year-old pilot, Nicholas Meleski, failed to maintain sufficient clearance from power lines while attempting to land. The investigation found no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures. As a result, the balloon’s basket detached upon impact. This caused all five individuals on board to plummet 100 feet to the ground. Meleski, along with Susan Montoya, 65, her husband John Montoya, 61, Martin Martinez, 59, and his wife Mary, 62, tragically lost their lives in the accident. Although John Montoya initially survived the fall, he later succumbed to his injuries at the University of New Mexico Hospital.

Meleski’s family expressed their deep grief and sadness for the pain caused by the accident, extending their condolences to the victims’ families. Martin Martinez, one of the passengers, had previously worked as a police officer for the city of Albuquerque and later for its public school system before retiring. Susan Montoya was an assistant school principal, while her husband worked with special-education students.

Federal officials have deemed this crash as the deadliest balloon accident in New Mexico’s history and the second-deadliest in the United States since 2016. It is worth noting that Albuquerque hosts an annual international balloon fiesta, attracting thousands of spectators each October.