Bal­loon­ist had taken drugs be­fore fa­tal flight in July

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - — An­drew Blake

The pi­lot of the dead­li­est hot air bal­loon crash in U.S. history had mul­ti­ple pro­hib­ited drugs in his sys­tem when his bal­loon crashed and burned near Lock­hart, Texas, ear­lier this year killing all 16 peo­ple on­board, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments re­leased Fri­day by fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Al­fred “Skip” Ni­chols, 49, had taken sev­eral med­i­ca­tions prior to the crash that may have af­fected his abil­ity to nav­i­gate the air­craft, ac­cord­ing to the results of a tox­i­col­ogy exam taken af­ter the tragedy and re­leased by the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board.

Ni­chols had sev­eral med­i­ca­tions in his sys­tem at the time of the ac­ci­dent that would have legally pre­vented him from ob­tain­ing the med­i­cal cer­tifi­cate that fixed-wing and he­li­copter pi­lots must re­ceive from the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion be­fore fly­ing, the results say. His tox­i­col­ogy sam­ple tested pos­i­tive for di­azepam, oxy­codone and methylphenidate, among other drugs.

He was pi­lot­ing a sight­see­ing char­ter tour south of Austin on July 30 when the hot air bal­loon burst into flames upon strik­ing high-volt­age

power lines. Ni­chols and all 15 pas­sen­gers were pro­nounced dead at the scene.

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