Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Cameron O-120, N158NM: Fatal accident occurred June 26, 2021 in Albuquerque, New Mexico

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Albuquerque, New Mexico
Location: Albuquerque, NM 
Accident Number: WPR21FA242
Date & Time: June 26, 2021, 07:07 Local
Registration: N158NM
Injuries: 5 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Business

On June 26, 2021, about 0707 mountain daylight time, a Cameron Balloons US, O-120 Balloon, N158NM, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The pilot and 4 passengers were fatally injured. The balloon was operated as Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 business flight.

According to witnesses, the balloon struck high voltage power lines and the basket separated from the envelop. Subsequently, the basket fell and impacted the road, while the separated envelope remained airborne, climbed, and then floated away. The balloon’s envelope was later located about 2 miles south from the accident site.

A review of surveillance videos from local area businesses revealed that the balloon began a climb before the road intersection where the power lines were located. The videos then depict the balloon descending into the power lines as it crossed about perpendicular to the wires. Shortly thereafter, the balloon contacted a high-tension power line, an arc appeared, and the basket separated from the

The accident site was located at a major road intersection. Several power lines ran perpendicular to the road and crossed the intersection. The power lines were strung between metal poles that were about 78 ft in height. Additionally, there were two static lines that were located on top of the power lines. One static line was missing on the south side.

The balloon wreckage was recovered to a secure location.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N158NM
Model/Series: O-120 
Aircraft Category: Balloon
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: 
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation: KABQ,5314 ft msl 
Observation Time: 06:52 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 6 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C /6°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 11 knots / , 20°
Lowest Ceiling: 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.07 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point:
Destination: Albuquerque, NM

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 4 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 5 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 35.07742,-106.72294 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email You can also call the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290.

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico. (KRQE) – A toxicology report reveals the pilot involved in the state’s deadliest hot air balloon crash had drugs in his system. The memorial is still at Central and Unser where the hot air balloon hit a power line and went down in late June, killing four passengers and the pilot, Nicholas Meleski.

A longtime balloon pilot who requested Meleski’s toxicology report says this tragedy didn’t have to happen. “Essentially, this means this was just an entirely unnecessary tragedy,” David Tanzer explained.

It was a devastating crash that shook Albuquerque and the tight-knit hot air ballooning community.

“I freaked out. First of all, I thought, ‘Am I seeing this? Is this really happening?'” a witness told KRQE News 13 the day of the crash on June 26.

“The balloon apparently hit the line, skirted to the west on the top of the power lines and the gondola crashed into the intersection here at Unser and Central,” Albuquerque Police Department Spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos stated.

The crash left people with more questions than answers.

“There was nothing I heard from anybody, you know, an observation of, ‘OK, this weather issue came about.’ Or, ‘This mechanical issue came about,'” Tanzer said.

The toxicology report just released reveals Meleski had THC and cocaine in his system at the time his balloon hit a power line, killing him and his four passengers, two couples well-known in the Albuquerque Public Schools community.

“I was saddened,” Tanzer went on. “I was angered.” Tanzer has been flying for more than 40 years, including at Balloon Fiesta. The ballooning safety advocate has spoken at seminars, written many safety columns on the topic, and said there were conversations within the small ballooning community after this tragedy. That prompted him to request the toxicology report, also obtained by KRQE News 13.

“I was also aware of rumors to the effect of he was under the influence of drugs,” Tanzer said.

Tanzer says while awareness is key to help ensure a similar tragedy doesn’t happen again, more needs to be done. “Making a concerted effort to implement something appropriate to stop this,” he said.

The Meleski family responded with the following statement in response to the release of the toxicology report:

“Like you, we have just received the report and we are reviewing the information contained in the report to gain an understanding of the findings. We are awaiting the full results of the ongoing investigation into the accident. We have no further comment at this time.”

The NTSB hasn’t yet confirmed the cause of the crash.

State Police released the names of all five victims:

Pilot, Nicholas Meleski, 62.

John Montoya, 61, and his wife Susan Montoya, 65.

Martin Martinez, 59, and his wife Mary Martinez, 62.

All five victims were from Albuquerque.

No comments:

Post a Comment