WELLINGTON – The pilot of a hot air balloon that crashed in New Zealand killing all 11 people on board had cannabis in his system, an official report said Thursday, blaming his poor judgment for the accident.
Investigators called for tighter drug restrictions after the crash in January 2012, when the balloon hit power lines before plunging to the ground in a flaming wreck.
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission said pilot Lance Hopping was a long-term cannabis user and a post-mortem examination found the drug in his system.
Chief Commissioner John Marshall said two witnesses saw Hopping smoking a substance on the morning of the accident, and forensic tests showed no sign he had inhaled tobacco.
Marshall also noted there were no maintenance issues with the balloon and the weather was calm before it crashed near the town of Carterton, north of Wellington, as relatives of those on board watched in horror.