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News from 2021-2022

Posted: June 27, 2021

All Victims in Saturday's Balloon Accident Had APS Ties

The district mourns the loss of colleagues, friends, relatives, and neighbors.

 All five victims of Saturday morning's tragic hot air balloon accident had ties to Albuquerque Public Schools. They were:

  • Martin Martinez, a sergeant with the APS Police Department, and his wife, Mary 
  • Susan Montoya, assistant principal at Georgia O'Keeffe Elementary School 
  • John Montoya, Susan's husband and an educational assistant for special education at Sandia High School 
  • Nicholas Meleski, the balloon pilot and father of school and crisis counselor Christee McIntire.

"For Albuquerque Public Schools, this loss is unprecedented," said APS Superintendent Scott Elder. "Never before have we experienced the loss of so many in one incident." 

Sgt. Martin Martinez

Sgt. Martinez came to APS in 2003 after retiring from the Albuquerque Police Department. He spent many years at Valley High School before becoming a field sergeant, responding to calls at all APS schools and offices.

"Marty loved his wife -- he talked a lot about his wife. He loved his sons and his two dogs. And he was an avid bike rider," said APS Police Chief Steve Gallegos, noting that Sgt. Martinez once served on the APD bike patrol. "He was one of the most honest people I've known. He was very passionate about his work, and he did a great job." 

Chief Gallegos said he called his officers together on Saturday to break the news about their colleague's passing. When he came into the office on Sunday, there were flowers in the sergeant's box. 

Susan and John Montoya  

Susan Montoya started her career with APS in 2014 as a coordinator for the Office of Accountability and Reporting. A year later, in the fall of 2015, she became the assistant principal at Georgia O'Keeffe Elementary School. 

Her husband, John, started his career with APS as a substitute teacher in 2014. In 2015, he became an educational assistant for the special education program at Sandia High School.

According to the staff at Georgia O'Keeffe, Susan, who was moving to another school, always wanted to go up in a hot air balloon. As a farewell gift, the staff pitched in to pay for a balloon ride for Susan and three guests. It was their way of showing Susan how much they loved and appreciated her. 

"There are no words to describe the heartache and trauma the staff at Georgia O'Keeffe is dealing with today," Superintendent Elder said. "Please keep them in your prayers."  

"Susan was a gifted administrator. John worked with our most vulnerable students. Both school communities are devastated," said Associate Superintendent Troy Hughes, who oversees both schools in Northeast Albuquerque.

"Susan was known for having a joyful spirit and a kind heart," Hughes continued. "John had a servant's heart. He loved working with students and was always so kind."

Hughes added that the couple was involved in their church and enjoyed Zumba. 

APS Crisis Team 

Members of the APS Stress Management and Recovery Team will be at the affected school beginning Monday to assist students and staff in all recovery areas, said Kristine Meurer, the Executive Director of Student, Family, and Community Supports Division. Christee McIntire, an elementary school counselor and a member of the crisis team, lost her father in Saturday's accident. 

"One of the members of our team was impacted by this tragedy, so we put our hearts out and our prayers out to all who this has impacted," said Meurer.

Southwest Family Guidance Center, an APS partner, will assist any employee who requests help.  

All supports will be available throughout the week and as long as needed. If students need assistance, they should contact their school.