New NTSB findings fault pilot for hot air balloon crash

The pilot had a high level of diphenhydramine in his blood.

BRAZOS VALLEY, Texas - The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released new details on the fatal hot air balloon crash that killed 16 people in July 2016

NTSB investigators have concluded that the pilot of that fatal crash Alfred "Skip" Nichols had enough Benadryl in his blood system to equal that of a drunk driver. 

"When we looked at the amount of Diphenhydramine in his blood at the time of the crash it was right at the therapeutic level, said NTSB Investigator Nick Webster. 

Investigators said multiple medications and medical conditions likely affected Nichols decision making during the flight.

"At the level he was at, it had the impairing effect of a blood alcohol of point 1," said Webster. 

Nichols and 15 others were killed when the balloon struck high voltage power lines and crashed into a field near Austin. 

Among those victims were newlyweds Matt and Sunday Rowan who were originally from the Brazos Valley and have immediate family still living in the area.

The report also found that Nichols was exempt from obtaining an FAA medical certificate, prompting the panel to call for all hot air balloon pilots to get medial authorization.

© 2017 KAGS-TV


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