The National Transport Safety Board (NTSB), has revealed that the worst Balloon accident in US history, was caused by the Pilot being under the influence of a combination of drugs that impaired his judgment, according to its findings which were released on Tuesday.

The balloon crash which occurred in July 2016 near Austin, Texas, claimed all 16 passengers on board, including the pilot, who ignored weather reports and flew the balloon into power lines, causing the balloon to catch fire and crash, NBC News reported. The findings of the crash were released during a meeting of NTSB in Washington, where the board also blamed the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA), for playing a part in the crash through lax enforcement of balloon related regulations.

Potent mixture of drugs

According to an NTSB medical officer, Dr, Nicholas Webster, the investigation found the pilot had a potent mixture of drugs in his system, and the traces were in high doses. Blood tests showed a high content of valium and oxycodone in addition to a high dose of the antihistamine Benadryl. The latter has an effect similar to alcohol. Although no alcohol was present in the pilot's system, 49-year-old Alfred Nichols, Dr. Webster said that he was just like a drunk driver due to the combination of the drugs he had taken. Nichols had at least four DUI convictions in the past, and when he was informed about the bad weather that would cause poor visibility, he ignored the warning and proceeded with the flight.

NTSB found FAA culpable

NTSB found that while the FAA had strict rules and regulations that governed airline pilots, the aviation authority did not police the balloon industry with the same vigor. For example, an airline pilot with four DUI convictions would not be allowed to step into a cockpit, but Nichols continued to fly his balloon despite his drunken driving convictions.

FAA was challenged to tighten regulations and ensure they were adhered to, in order to prevent such deadly accidents in the future.

Previous complaints on Nichols

NTSB found customers had complained about Nichols conduct dating back to 1997 and reported to the Better Business Bureau. Customers had complained about canceled balloon rides by Nichols service, with no refunds made.

Nichols also had a condition known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD) and was receiving treatment from a Psychiatrist. Three months before the crash, he told his Psychiatrist that he had stopped taking his prescribed anti-depressant medication. He was then given a prescription of 13 medicines because his doctor observed his mood was not good. None of these details were known to the FAA until after the crash when it was too late.