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Lawsuit filed against New Mexico deadly balloon crash pilot who had drugs in system

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — The family of one of the victims in the deadly Albuquerque balloon crash in June has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the estate of pilot, Nick Meleski, and two balloon companies he was associated with.

The lawsuit filed by the estate of Martin Martinez who was killed alongside his wife, Mary, in the crash on Albuquerque’s west side in June.

The family filed the lawsuit after a toxicology report earlier this week showed that Meleski had marijuana and cocaine in his system at the time of autopsy.

Dr. Barry Ramo, a medical expert retained by ABC affiliate KOAT, said the cocaine in Meleski’s system were near fatal amounts.

“Cocaine, in high doses, can cause death. It causes a heart disturbance rhythm called sudden cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillations, so it causes a heart arrhythmia, which then stops the heart and causes immediate death," Ramo said.

Both the cause of the crash and cause of Meleski’s death are still under investigation.

But the lawsuit claims that Meleski was “under the influence of intoxicating substances while piloting the aircraft” and claims it was pilot error that caused the basked of the balloon to hit a power line, causing a fire that separated the basket from the gondola killing all five people on board.

However, it is not yet known if Meleski was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash.

Medical experts say cocaine can show up in a blood or saliva test for up to two days and a urine test for three day while marijuana can show up anywhere between three days to a month or longer in urine, depending on how often one uses, and up to 36 hours in blood.

The lawsuit names three defendants in their suit: Hot Air Balloonatics LLC, Sventato LLC and the Meleski Estate.

Among several claims, the lawsuit says Balloonatics entrusted Meleski to operate the aircraft and carry passengers and “knew or should have known of his illicit drug use and that he was likely to operate the balloon or conduct himself in a manner that was of unreasonable risk to others.”

The lawsuit claims Sventato owned the balloon piloted by Meleski and is therefore subject to this litigation.

For Meleski, the lawsuit claims his negligence was the cause of injuries and death for Martinez.

ABC News

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