Full report on fatal balloon crash investigation could take a year or more

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque’s ballooning community is grappling with the report showing a local pilot had drugs in his system when he crashed killing himself and four others. It could be a while before the full report is released.

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“The FAA and NTSB are involved. Both will take a year to a year and a half to complete the investigation. They’re going to go through all the logbooks, records, speak to any witnesses, obviously in this case we can’t speak to the pilot unfortunately but they’re going to look to anybody who may have worked with him, trained him, communicated with him,” said Christian Pezalla, an aviation attorney.

New Mexico aviation attorney Christian Pezalla says it is too early to say who besides the pilot could be held liable for the June crash, but it is common to see legal action against the balloon company and others in a case like this. Pezalla says first, investigators will need a full picture of what caused Nick Meleski’s balloon to hit a power line and plummet into the intersection at Central and Unser.

In the meantime, Pezalla has a message for people considering a balloon ride. “There are lots of balloons flying and statistically they are very safe. I don’t want to discourage the public, I think folks should go out, fly the balloons, and this was a very unfortunate occurrence but the balloon community is going to do everything it can to learn from this,” Pezalla said.

Pezalla says investigations into crashes like this can lead to changes in aviation regulations. Some pilots are now calling for mandatory drug testing for commercial pilots.

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