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UPDATE: Pilot in deadly hot air balloon crash had record of DWI in Missouri

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Missouri police officer says balloon pilot had record of DWI [UPDATE: 8:58 p.m.] 

A Missouri police officer says the balloon pilot involved in Saturday's deadly crash in Texas had a history of driving while under the influence. 

The officer said Alfred "Skip" Nichols was arrested in 2000 for felony driving while intoxicated. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DWI two years later. 

Based on photographs, the officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he was confident the man he arrested was the pilot killed in this weekend's hot air balloon crash.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in 2008 that the Better Business Bureau had warned against doing business with the balloon pilot because of several complaints. 

At the time, the BBB also noted Nichols was on probation for distribution, delivery or manufacturing a controlled substance in Missouri. 

UPDATE: Pilot in deadly hot air balloon crash had record of DWI in Missouri

Pilot in deadly hot air balloon crash described as 'safe, competent' 

A friend of the hot air balloonist in Saturday's deadly crash near Lockhart, Texas, described him as a "safe, competent pilot," according to CNN. 

Sunday, officials identified the pilot as Alfred "Skip" Nichols. 

The pilot's friend, who is also the ground crew supervisor for Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides, confirmed Nichols was one of 16 killed when the balloon caught fire.

"He has done this for a very long time," balloon pilot Philip Bryant said of Nichols. 

Newlyweds killed in hot air balloon crash 

Newlyweds Matt and Sunday Rowan were also among the 16 killed in the hot air balloon crash. 

The couple had been married less than six months. 

Brent Jones, the father of Sunday's 5-year-old son, told CNN Sunday Rowan had purchased the balloon flight for her husband's birthday gift. 

"Sunday was messaging her mom before getting on the balloon. Soon after takeoff, she stopped all communication," he told CNN. 

Deadliest hot air balloon crash in U.S. history

Saturday's hot air balloon crash was the deadliest in U.S. history, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. 

Both the Federal Aviation Administration and the NTSB are investigating the incident. At this point, officials said they believe the hot air balloon may have hit power lines before crashing. 

An NTSB spokesman told CNN 16 is the maximum number of passengers allowed under federal regulations. 

Call for more hot air balloon regulations 

The NTSB is likely to call for more federal regulations on hot air balloons, in light of this weekend's tragic crash.

According to CNN, the FAA and NTSB have clashed over hot air balloon regulations in the past. 

The FAA is responsible for setting federal regulations for aircraft, but in 2014 the NTSB urged the FAA to address safety deficiencies. 

In a letter to the FAA, the former chair of the NTSB recommended requiring commercial balloon operators to acquire letters of authorization to take passengers on flights. 


Since that letter was sent to the FAA, four people have died and 25 have sustained serious injuries in balloon accidents. The death toll number above does not reflect fatalities from this weekend's crash. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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