Investigators say the pilot of a Texas hot air balloon that crashed and killed 16 people flew with enough Benadryl in his system to have the equivalent blood-alcohol level of a drunken driver.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators said Tuesday at a hearing in Washington that pilot Alfred “Skip” Nichols also took sedatives and opioids that likely affected his decision-making during the July 2016 flight.
The balloon hit high-tension power lines before crashing into a pasture southwest of Austin near the town of Lockhart. It was the worst hot-air balloon disaster in U.S. history.
Investigators say Nichols was told during a weather briefing before the flight that clouds may be a problem. But he allegedly replied, “we just fly in between them.”
Nichols had at least four convictions for drunken driving and twice spent time in prison.