Balloonist had taken drugs before fatal flight in July
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.