A report from the San Antonio Express-News shows that there were repeated opportunities for federal officials to take steps to prevent the hot air balloon accident that occurred near Lockhart in July 2016, which killed 16 people. The balloon hit high-voltage power lines and crashed.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees the hot air balloon industry, does not require balloon pilots to take the drug tests or undergo the medical evaluations that other pilots do. Instead, it relied on an honor system. The pilot of the downed balloon took medications which experts testified should have prevented him from flying. Three years before the crash occurred, a safety inspector proposed increasing regulations for balloon operators that included drug tests for pilots. The FAA rejected that proposal.
After the accident, the FAA said that there was no guarantee that if drug tests of balloon pilots had been performed, the drug tests would have detected the pilot’s prescription medications. The FAA also pointed out that even if the pilot had his medical certificate revoked, the agency could not monitor him constantly, and he could have flown anyway.
Most balloon accidents are caused by pilot error, and about 20 percent of crashes involve power lines. The pilot of the balloon checked with an aviation weather service before the flight and was told that clouds could be a problem. The pilot said he would just fly in between the clouds.
Unfortunately, this pilot flew under the influence of medication and chose to ignore weather reports, which ultimately took 16 lives. In situations such as this, the company operating the tours can be held legally responsible. If you or a loved one has been injured in the Dallas area because of another party’s negligence, call the Dallas-Fort Worth personal injury attorneys at the Barber Law Firm at 972-231-5800. We can help. Call today to learn more or to schedule a free consultation on your case.