Pilot in deadly Texas balloon crash had drugs in system

(Reuters) - The man piloting a hot air balloon that crashed in Texas in July, killing himself and 15 others, tested positive for opioids and also had a history of drug or alcohol related traffic offenses, federal investigative records show.

The documents released last week by the National Transportation Safety Board showed that 49-year-old pilot Alfred "Skip" Nichols had Oxycodone in his system, along with medications for an array of conditions like attention deficit disorder (ADD) and depression.

The Federal Aviation Administration's guidelines indicate that a pilot should not fly while using sedatives like Oxycodone, most antidepressants, or medications for ADD, the documents said.

In addition, records indicated that Nichols, "had a history of multiple alcohol and drug related traffic and non-traffic offenses, resulting in convictions and two subsequent periods of incarceration."

PHOTOS: Twitter reactions to hot air balloon crash

Twitter reactions to Texas hot air balloon crash July 30 2016
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Twitter reactions to Texas hot air balloon crash July 30 2016
#BREAKING Sheriff: Appears to be no survivors in hot air balloon crash in Texas, carrying 16 https://t.co/aHZJ0I5JNc
BREAKING VIDEO Hot Air #Balloon Catches Fire and Crashes In #Texas Carrying 16 People https://t.co/EzyL95Pz8y
MORE: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott releases statement on hot air balloon crash that killed 16: https://t.co/0GMMdrkr9a https://t.co/oNoNEo0lXk
No survivors in #Texas hot air balloon crash: officials https://t.co/19XLnEyHzg (pic via @vnat888) https://t.co/66oY3kfico
JUST IN: Governor @GregAbbott_TX's statement regarding the heartbreaking #HotAirBalloon crash. https://t.co/nrzM4kO4Jl
Here's a look at the deadly #HotAirBalloon crash in Lockhart. Follow @MarcusonFOX7. He's on the scene. https://t.co/rDkPX6qkCz

The balloon hit a power line the morning of July 30 and plummeted in flames into a pasture near Lockhart, about 30 miles (50 km) south of the state capital Austin.

The accident killed all 16 people on board, making it the deadliest crash ever involving a hot air balloon in the Western Hemisphere, according to the Balloon Federation of North America.

Records in Missouri's St. Louis County showed that Nichols had pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges at least three times between 1990 and 2010 and several other vehicular charges.

In 2000, he pleaded guilty to a drug-related charge and spent time in prison, according to criminal records.

Following his 2010 conviction for drunk driving, Nichols was sentenced to seven years in prison and released on parole in January 2012.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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