Balloonists mourn pilot, passengers who died in hot air balloon crash

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Balloon pilots are heartbroken. The tight-knit community is going through a lot of pain and disbelief.

They said their fallen brother, Nick Meleski, was someone to learn from.

"Every time he opened his mouth – it would be something to be learned or experienced through his exciteable story – his love for the sport and his love for life," Chris Jones, a balloon pilot, said. "You were happy to be experiencing vicariously or in reality with him and I’m sad I will never get that opportunity today."

Another balloon pilot, Bill Noe, said Meleski was a great friend.

"He was a great pilot, I’ve known him a long time – he’d do anything for ya," Noe said. "If you were down in the dumps, he’d try to cheer you up, ‘come on, let’s go!’ If you were hesitant about putting your happy face on, he’d do what he could to help you change."

The ballooning community is still trying to find the right words for a tragic day.

"We’re pretty saddened by this morning’s event… it’s always… it’s a big loss when you lose not only a pilot, but passengers as well. It’s tough to take," Noe said. "We’re trying to be supportive. We’re trying to understand."