Agency: Drug use should have grounded pilot in balloon wreck

Police cars block access to the site where a hot air balloon crashed early Saturday, July 30, 2016, near Lockhart, Texas. At least 16 people were on board the balloon, which Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said caught fire before crashing into a pasture shortly after 7:40 a.m. Saturday near Lockhart. No one appeared to survive the crash, authorities said. (AP Photo/James Vertuno)


WASHINGTON (AP) — Medical experts say the pilot of a hot-air balloon that crashed in Texas, killing him and 15 others, had medical ailments and was prescribed numerous prescription drugs that should have prevented him from flying.

The National Transportation Safety Board was told during a hearing Friday that it appears Alfred “Skip” Nichols was using at least 10 different drugs at the time the balloon hit high-tension power lines before crashing into a pasture July 30 near Lockhart, about 60 miles northeast of San Antonio.

It’s not clear whether the 49-year-old was impaired during the early morning flight. A final NTSB report won’t be issued until early next year.

Nichols had at least four convictions for drunken driving and twice spent time in prison.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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