An ongoing investigation into the deadliest hot air balloon accident in United States history has revealed that the pilot of the balloon had seven different potentially mind-altering drugs in his system at the time of the crash. According to a National Transit Safety Board press release noted in a recently published national news article, several drugs were found in the blood of the balloon operator after he died, along with all 15 passengers on board the craft, when it struck high-voltage power lines during a descent, caught fire, and ultimately crashed into a field near Lockhart, Texas. Although authorities have not determined the exact cause of the tragic event, it appears that drug intoxication may have played a role in the deadly accident.
According to the report, the substances found in the man’s system included drugs used to treat anxiety, severe pain, depression, muscle spasms, attention deficit disorder, and insomnia, among other ailments. Even though the report states that the pilot was legally prescribed the drugs found in his system, several of the substances he had consumed would prevent an airplane or helicopter pilot from legally operating an aircraft, although hot air balloon operators are not subject to the same regulations as other pilots. Taken individually, these types of drugs could impair a pilot’s ability to safely control a hot air balloon, but when several different psychoactive drugs are taken together, the effects can multiply, and a dangerous level of impairment becomes even more likely.