Family of couple killed in hot air balloon crash shares fond memories as they cope with loss

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- The Martinez family will never forget June 26, 2021.

It’s the day Martin and Mary Martinez died in the deadliest hot air balloon crash in New Mexico’s history.

Marcus Martinez said he didn’t know his parents were on a hot air balloon until he learned it crashed.

"I was seeing pictures online, and I was praying it wasn’t them and because of a certain photo that was out, I knew, even though I was praying it wasn’t them, I knew it was my mother because there was a photo of her feet," he said. "And I knew it was her because I knew the type of spandex pants that she wears for Zumba. She was always a very colorful person, likes to express herself like that. And I knew it was her shoes. Deep down, I was hoping it wasn’t them, but I already knew from photos that surfaced that it was them."

Marcus said the images on social media add to his family’s pain.

"Certain people thought it would be OK to go live on Facebook, not just once, but a total of three times, and actually have footage of, be it, the balloon actually crashing and disconnecting and falling to the ground," he said. "And thought it was an OK idea to go up to the gondola after it had was crashed and get video footage of, what we found out was our deceased parents inside of the basket. I – we’re very disgusted and upset with those people."

The family is trying to cope with what happened.

They said Mary and Martin were full of life. They met in 1983 under strange circumstances.

"Mary worked at Godfather’s Pizza down in the Valley," said Mary’s brother, Manny Sisneros. "And Marty was a police officer, and Mary got robbed one night, and Marty happened to be one of the responding officers."

"It was like her knight in shining armor came to her and comforted her. It’s a fairy tale story," Manny added.

Soon after, they got married and grew their family.

"One thing my mom and dad always had said was, ‘don’t focus on the money, focus on your family. The money is always going to be there. Family is not always going to be there. Spend the time with them while you can,’" said the Martinez’s son, Manuel.

When Martin got out of the Army, he joined the Albuquerque Police Department. He would eventually retire, but went back to work as an officer with Albuquerque Public Schools.

"When it came to law enforcement, I think he would want all cops to stay strong," Manuel said.

But it was Mary’s community that led them to the balloon ride. Susan Montoya, an assistant principal at an APS school, had been gifted a hot air balloon ride for four. Susan knew Mary through her Zumba class.

"She offered it to my mom as like a ‘thank you’ gift, for everything that she’s done," Manuel said.

"When Mary told me she was going up, she said, you know, I’ve always wanted to since I was a little girl. She wanted to go up in a hot air balloon. And they asked me, because I’ve been up, and they asked me if it was safe. And I told them, when I went up it was safe," Manny said.

They said they were surprised they went on the balloon ride because Martin liked to stay at home and play with the dogs.

"I just think my mom was probably terrified, and I’m grateful my dad was there being the cool-headed guy that he was, just probably telling her it’s going to be alright, probably holding her tight," Marcus said.

Mary and Martin are missed– in big and small ways.

"I know I’m going to miss my mom sending me little texts out of nowhere saying, ‘hey my babe, just so you know, we got this going on if you want to come.’ And just saying ‘I love you,’" Marcus said.

A donation event for the Martinez family will be held Friday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, located at 1860 Griegos Rd. NW.