Hot Air Balloon Pilot Had Controversial History

| by Nicholas Roberts

Reports have emerged that the man who served as the pilot for a recent Texas hot air balloon which crashed and killed 16 people was also previously arrested for drunk driving and had been complained about on several occasions to the Better Business Bureau in Missouri.

The fatal balloon crash occurred on July 30.  The pilot was identified by friend Alan Lirette as 49-year-old Alfred "Skip" Nichols, according to the New York Daily News.

 Lirette said that Nichols was a great pilot.

"There's going to be all kinds of reports out in the press and I want a positive image there too," he said.

Authorities have not yet publicly named Nichols or other victims of the crash.

According to the Daily Mail, Nichols had pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated no less than four times. He also did more than a year in prison on a drug charge in 2000.

The officer noted that Nichols had owned a hot air balloon company in St. Louis County, Missouri, before he moved to Texas.  He said that he is confident they are the same man based on photographs of Nichols.

Additionally, the Better Business Bureau of Missouri had warned consumers about doing business with Mr. Nichols, who received an unsatisfactory record 3 times since 2000 for not responding to complaints.

The balloon reportedly hit high-tension power lines before crashing into a pasture, according to federal investigators.

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