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New Details Available In New Mexico’s Fatal Hot Air Balloon Crash

Pilot Tested Positive For Drugs In His System

At the end of June, a hot air balloon ride killed five people when it struck a powerline before crashing into a busy street.

The National Transportation Safety Board has not ruled what caused the crash, but the Federal Aviation Administration has recently released information that shows that the pilot, Nicholas Meleski, had marijuana and cocaine in his system at the time of the crash that killed him and all four of his passengers.

The family of the passengers has filed a lawsuit against the estate of the deceased pilot and the companies that operated the commercial balloon company.

Levels of THC were found in Meleski’s blood and urine, cocaine in his blood and urine, and cocaethylene – a mixture that occurs with cocaine and alcohol – in his urine, but not his blood.

Dr. Ernest Chiodo, an out-of-state toxicologist, who said the results show Meleski "utilized it (drugs) relatively recently but not right before the accident." Chiodo says that the results are "more consistent with partying the night before."

Manny Sisneros, the brother of one of the crash victims, Mary Martinez, shared the following statement: "My family is heartbroken over the news that the pilot of the balloon, Nicholas Meleski, had drugs in his system while operating the balloon that took the lives of my sister Mary Martinez, her husband Marty Martinez, John and Susan Montoya and himself. When taking a balloon ride as my sister Mary did, she entrusted her life with this pilot.  Nicholas Meleski obviously didn't take into consideration all of the people whose lives he destroyed due to his drug use. We are aware that the drugs in his system may not be the cause of the crash but having Cocaine and Marijuana in his system, may have been one of the contributing factors. Had there been a way for the deceased to make an informed decision about the pilot, perhaps they would be here today.  We hope that in the future, the NTSB and FAA, regulate Balloon pilots in the same manner as they do airline pilots."



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