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.
A Dangerous Combination of Psychoactive Substances Was Present in the Pilot’s Blood
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.
The Pilot Had a Criminal History that Suggested Drug and Alcohol Issues
In addition to the psychological diagnoses that resulted in the man taking several mind-altering medications, it was reported that the pilot had several drug and alcohol related criminal convictions in his past. Federal and state regulations governing hot air balloon operators are lenient (or nonexistent) compared to those restricting the operators of other aircraft or dangerous equipment.
According to the report, the man was not allowed to drive himself to the balloon port because of prior DUI convictions, but he was allowed to hold dozens of passengers’ lives in his hands as a balloon pilot. Whether or not transportation regulations and criminal statutes could or should have prevented the man from piloting the balloon that day, the families of the accident victims may still be entitled to damages through a wrongful death action.
Holding Responsible Parties Accountable After a Tragedy
The recent NTSB report suggests that drugs or alcohol played a role in the tragic balloon crash, and arguably the pilot should not even have been in the position to endanger those who lost their lives that day. Regardless of any role that intoxication plays in a hot air balloon crash or other type of accident, passengers in any type of vehicle have a legitimate expectation of safe passage while traveling or riding under the care of a pilot, driver, captain, or other type of equipment operator.
Companies or individuals who offer transportation or leisure services such as hot-air balloon rides have a duty to their customers to employ operators and other employees who keep the customers safe. In the event of an accident that causes injuries or death, the victims and their loved ones may be entitled to seek compensation from both a negligent employee who contributes to an accident and the company offering the services. When an event takes the lives of everyone on board a vehicle, including the operator, families of the innocent passengers may still be able to obtain compensation for their loved one’s wrongful death, often to be paid from insurance coverage.
Contact an Attorney and Discuss Your Rights
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by an act of negligence, you may be entitled to substantial compensation for your loss. The New Mexico personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the Fine Law Firm can help you stand up for your legal rights and seek fair compensation for your loss. Businesses are responsible for the conduct of their employees, and they are often required to carry liability insurance in the event that an intoxicated or negligent employee makes a mistake, and somebody gets hurt. If you’re not sure if you have a claim, contact the Fine Law Firm and speak with one of our New Mexico accident attorneys about what happened. There is no obligation to file a lawsuit, and you won’t pay us anything unless we collect damages for you first. Call today at (585) 989-3463, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation.
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Court Dismisses Medical Malpractice Case Due to Plaintiff’s Failure to Comply with Statute of Limitations, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, November 15, 2016.
State Supreme Court Partially Reverses Judgment in Personal Injury Case Involving Claims of Governmental Immunity, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 1, 2016.