The pilot of the crashed hot air balloon which left 16 people dead in Lockhart, Texas, had a criminal history, according to police. It is unclear at this point in the investigation whether or not Alfred ‘Skip’ Nichols was under the influence of any substances at the time of the crash, but in 2000, Nichols was arrested for drinking and driving.
16 victims included pilot Alfred “Skip” Nichols and newlyweds Matt and Sunday Rowan.https://t.co/8uz68QMKry
— TomoNews US (@TomoNewsUS) August 1, 2016
The 49-year-old owner of Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides had been in the hot air balloon business once before in St. Louis, MO, where he was on probation for drug use. According to police, Nichols was arrested in 2000 on a “felony driving-while-intoxicated charge. The case was resolved two years later when he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor version of the charge,” reported the Associated Press.
Besides his criminal record, Nichols also had a poor reputation with the Better Business Bureau. In 2008, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the BBB had advised customers against doing business with Nichols.
The pilot also had a poor reputation in Texas with the BBB who gave him a D+ rating, and Yelp who reportedly rated him with 1.5 stars, mostly for cancelled flights.
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After the crash, Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides suspended operations and issued the following statement, “The horrific crash near Lockhart, Texas has taken from us our owner and Chief Pilot, Skip Nichols, as well as 15 passengers, all of whom saw what was planned to be a special day turn into an unspeakable tragedy.”