Alfred (Skip) Nichols
Alfred (Spkip) Nichols also known as Skip Nichols, has been identified as the hot air balloon pilot who was killed along with 15 passengers in Texas in the early hours of Saturday, July 30th.
The tragic crash has been labeled America’s worst balloon disaster. The balloon crashed next to power transmission lines off of State Highway 142, reports say.
49-year-old Skip Nichols was chief pilot and owner at Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides. He was carrying 15 people when he crashed Saturday morning near Lockhart and there were no survivors.
The company released a statement about the tragedy, saying
It is with extraordinarily heavy hearts that we announce the suspension of operations at Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides.
The horrific crash near Lockhart, Texas has taken from us our owner and Chief Pilot, Skip Nichols, as well as 15 passengers, all of whom saw what was planned to be a special day turn into an unspeakable tragedy.
At this time, no information has been shared with us by the investigating authorities; it is for that reason we are unable to speak with the families of the passengers, but we do want you to know that we are with you in spirit and prayer and share your grief. There are simply no words to express our profound sadness at this event that has taken away so many of our loved ones.
With our greatest sympathy,
Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides
As more information is available, it turns out Alfred (Skip) Nichols had a shady past. Before moving to Texas, Alfred G. Nichols, lived in Missouri –where he also used to own a hot air balloon touring company in St. Louis County.
Authorities in Missouri report Alfred (Skip) Nichols was arrested in 2000 on a felony driving while intoxicated charge and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DWI in 2002.
According to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in 2008 the Better Business Bureau had warned consumers about doing business with Alfred “Skip” Nichols.
He was on probation in Missouri for distribution, delivery or manufacturing a controlled substance.
A Facebook page for Skip’s Nichols business reads “Offering breathtaking hot air balloon flights for the San Antonio, Austin, and surrounding areas. Come join us for a sunrise champagne celebration.”
The cause of the sinister is still under investigation. Federal officials say there is evidence that some part of the hot air balloon hit electrical wires before crashing. That, could have caused the hot air balloon to caught fire before ultimately going down.
People close to Alfred (Skip) Nichols have said he was a good man, “always smiling” and have identified a business partner. He lived with his pets.