Alfred “Skip” Nichols had an array of drugs in his system at the time of the balloon crash in Texas that killed him and 15 others on July 30th, according to reports. Investigative records show that Nichols’ past included multiple drug and traffic related offenses.
The hot air balloon crashed at 7:45 am on July 30th after striking a power line near Lockhart, Texas. The balloon burst into flames and crashed into a nearby pasture, killing all 16 persons on-board.
Investigators claim that the balloon, owned by Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides, had “no evidence of pre-existing failures, malfunctions or problems”.
Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides is owned by the deceased pilot’s mother.
According to the Balloon Federation of North America, this was the deadliest balloon crash to ever occur in the Western Hemisphere.
Reuters News reports that documents released by the NTSB last week show that the 49 year old pilot, Alfred Nichols, had oxycodone in his system at the time of the crash, as well as other drugs such as ADHD medication and antidepressants. FAA guidelines indicate that pilots under the influence of sedatives, such as oxycodone and most antidepressants, should not fly.
Investigative records show that Nichols had previous convictions and two periods of incarceration.
Missouri St. Louis County records show that Nichols had pleaded guilty to charges of drunk driving at least three times between 1990 and 2010. In 2000, he went to prison after pleading guilty to a charge of drug distribution.
The drunk driving conviction from 2010 sentenced him to seven years in prison, yet he was released on parole in 2012.
From 1964 to 2014, the NTSB has investigated 775 hot air balloon crashes in the United States. 70 of the 775 crashed involved fatalities.
16 people died in hot air balloon crashed from 2002 to 2012, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).