ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) –Nearly two years after New Mexico’s deadliest hot air balloon crash, pilots are still feeling it’s impact. The crash killed four passengers and one pilot in Albuquerque back in 2021. 

In June 2021 a balloon hit power lines and crashed down at the intersection of Central and Unser. The pilot and four passengers died. The incident left the ballooning community shocked and saddened. “It definitely struck close to home,” says William Fitzpatrick, Local Balloon pilot and Aviation Safety Professional. 

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A new report released by the National Transportation Safety Board last week, says the ‘impairing, illicit drugs’ in pilot Nicholas Meleski’s system likely contributed to the deadly crash. It says a post-crash examination of the balloon revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunction.

Fitzpatrick says they have begun doing safety checklists before taking off, where they keep a close eye on the balloon pilot’s illnesses, medications, stress levels, and fatigue. “Even though this tragedy, the community has that ability to look at everybody within the community and reach out and take care of their own, take care of the pilots take care of the passengers,” says Fitzpatrick. 

The pilot’s family also released a statement on Friday. They thanked the National Transportation Safety Board for their investigation as well as the ballooning community.