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2 former Clovis residents identified as victims of New Mexico hot air balloon crash

Albuquerque Fire Rescue crews work on victims of the fatal balloon crash at Unser and Central...
Albuquerque Fire Rescue crews work on victims of the fatal balloon crash at Unser and Central SW in Albuquerque, N.M., on Saturday, June 26, 2021. Multiple people were killed in the crash. (Source: Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)(Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal | Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)
Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 4:19 PM CDT
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KFDA) - Two former Clovis residents have been identified as two of the five victims in the hot air balloon crash in Albuquerque, New Mexico, according to the Eastern New Mexico News.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports Clovis native Susan Montoya received the hot air balloon ride as a farewell gift from coworkers when she transferred from Georgia O’Keeffe Elementary School.

She invited her husband, John Montoya and another couple they had become friends with through work, Mary and Martin Martinez.

Early Saturday morning, the two couples and pilot Nick Meleski boarded the hot air balloon and flew to their deaths.

Around 7:00 a.m., the balloon struck and severed an electrical power line. The gondola caught fire and crashed to the ground, killing four instantly and fatally inuring the fifth.

The Montoya’s were married in Clovis, leaving about 2008 so Susan could take a job as a school administrator in Gallup.

“John and Susan were so sweet and this just breaks my heart,” said Clovis’ Marty Berry, longtime friends with the couple from their time as members of Central Christian Church.

Berry said she continued to correspond with the Montoya’s, as recently as a few months ago.

“Since Lynn (Marty’s husband) died two years ago, John always called every couple of months just to see if I was OK.”

Clovis’ Ben McDaniel also kept in touch with the couple and said he received a “happy birthday” text from John on June 18.

“I’ve known John since I was a kid,” said McDaniel, a former Curry County commissioner. “He was a really good guy, very kind. Hard worker. Honest. We were all sad when they moved and this breaks my heart. They were just great people.”

Authorities say John Montoya initially survived the crash but died of his injuries later Saturday at an Albuquerque hospital.

Jim Marable, a friend of John and Susan Montoya, said the couple was always willing to volunteer for any project.

“They had a heart for service,” said Marable, who knew the couple through the First Baptist Church of West Albuquerque. “They were dependable. They would be there if you needed them.”

Marable said Susan Montoya was excited about their upcoming balloon ride.

“John and Susan will leave a void,” Marable said. “They were everywhere and did everything.”

Susan Montoya’s sister, Sharon Wetmore, said the Montoyas were good natured and devoted to their church.

“I’m still in shock,” Wetmore said. “They were good people and helpful to everyone and happy all the time. It was a shock this happened.”

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