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Hot Air Balloon Crashes Due to Pilot with Drunk-Driving Record

On August 1, a hot air balloon crashed near Lockhart, Texas, killing 16 people in perhaps the worst national incident of its kind. The balloon made contact with high-tension power lines and then crashed into a nearby pasture, killing everyone on board. The pilot, who had at least four drunk-driving convictions and two jail sentences, was able to continue operation of his hot air balloons despite his record.

The 49-year-old Alfred “Skip” Nichols had been stripped of his driver’s license at least twice before and convicted of a drug crime, which he spent time in jail for. Even though he was not able to drive a car, he was still able to fly a hot air balloon legally. This is due to a loophole in the balloon certificate process. When pilots apply for a ballooning certificate with the Federal Aviation Administration, they are not required to disclose previous drunk-driving or drug convictions. Balloon pilots are also not required to get regular medical exams from the FAA.

Nichols received numerous complaints from customers, since he frequently cancelled services at the last minute and did not offer refunds. On August 3, 2014, Nichols’ balloon company was involved in a similar accident. The balloon made a hard landing after Nichols claimed “they ran out of propane,” injuring two passengers and resulting in a personal injury claim with an undisclosed settlement.

This tragic incident is just one example of how a negligent individual can still harm others. Because regulations and laws were not in place to keep Nichols from flying balloons with multiple DUI convictions, 16 people were killed and numerous families were impacted.

Learn more about this wrongful death case.

If you are one of your loved ones was killed in a negligent accident, contact Gresham, P.C. for the counsel you need!