Pilot in balloon crash that killed 5 people in New Mexico had cocaine and marijuana in his system, FAA says

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — A Federal Aviation Administration report shows the pilot of a hot air balloon that crashed in New Mexico in June had marijuana and cocaine in his system.

Pilot Nicholas Meleski died along with his four passengers after the balloon descended into the sky over Albuquerque, hit power lines and crashed into a busy intersection.

Meleski’s family said Albuquerque NBC KOB Affiliate let them evaluate a copy of the toxicology report and request confidentiality.

Five people died after a hot air balloon crashed in Albuquerque, NM on June 26, 2021.Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal

The FAA did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the report.

The National Transportation Safety Board has yet to rule on the cause of the June 26 crash. Although the board did not provide much information about why the balloon collided with power lines, a preliminary report released in July detailed the moments leading up to the crash, such as the surveillance videos of surrounding businesses show.

Witnesses also told investigators that the balloon envelope separated from the basket after hitting power lines and flew away. He was found a few miles south of the crash site.

The passengers killed in the crash were Mary Martinez, her husband Martin, and their friends Susan and John Montoya.

Martin Martinez worked for years as an Albuquerque police officer and later as an Albuquerque school district officer. Mary Martinez, mother of two, was a volunteer and loved helping people. Susan Montoya was an assistant principal and her husband worked with special education students.

Federal officials said the balloon crash was the deadliest recorded in New Mexico’s history and the second-deadliest in the United States since 2016. New Mexico is home to an annual international balloon party that draws hundreds of pilots and tens of thousands of spectators from around the world each October.