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Pilot in deadly Texas balloon crash had opiate drugs in system

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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.

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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.”

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.

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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.

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

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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LAX customs officer calls journalist ‘fake news’ and demands to know if he works for CNN or MSNBC: report

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On Thursday, Empire Magazine's James Dyer stated in a Twitter thread that he was stopped by a customs official while arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, aggressively interrogated about his journalistic career, and accused of being "fake news":

Wow. Just... wow. Just went through LAX immigration. Presented my journalist visa and was stopped by the CBP agent and accused of being part of the ‘fake news media’.

— James Dyer (@jamescdyer) August 22, 2019

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‘He does not belong in this office’: Ron Reagan says Trump ‘has been crazy because he is crazy’

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The son of Republican President Ronald Reagan blasted President Donald Trump on MSNBC on Tuesday.

Ron Reagan, Jr. was interviewed on "Hardball" by Chris Matthews.

The host recounted Trump's attacks on Denmark after they said Greenland was not for sale.

"He wants to fight with everybody, including the quiet, American-loving Danes. What’s up?" Matthews asked.

"Well, it’s craziness, but I take a little umbrage at this idea that we have to ascribe it to something like the economy or his anxiousness about re-election. He’s acting the way he’s acting because he is who he is and what he is," Reagan replied.

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Trump may look unstable now — but the economy is going to make him much worse: CNN’s April Ryan

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On Thursday's edition of CNN's "OutFront," analyst and American Urban Radio Network Washington bureau chief April Ryan walked through how President Donald Trump backed himself into a corner by trying to build his brand on a great economy — and is coming to pieces as a result.

"April, what are you hearing? Is the economy causing the president's erratic behavior?" asked anchor Kate Bolduan.

"Yes, yes, and yes," said Ryan. "This president has been touting a great economy, and this is the cornerstone since I guess since the very beginning of his administration for people to feel that he should win re-election, that he is firmly planted for the American public and he's working for them," said Ryan. "But indicators, non-traditional indicators, are saying something different. He is having a hard time trying to marry the great economy with what it looks like for the American public, particularly the grassroots."

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