TAIC Chief Commissioner John Marshall QC said he could not say for sure how much cannabis use, either long-term or recent, had contributed to the Carterton accident.
“While it is difficult to say how much each type of use contributed to the result, cannabis is known to affect a person’s judgement and decision-making ability,” TAIC said.
“Poor judgement and poor decision-making were factors contributing to this accident. The commission found that the pilot’s use of cannabis could not be excluded as a factor contributing to his errors of judgement, and therefore to the accident.”
“Both long term and recent use of cannabis may significantly impair a person’s performance of their duties, especially those involving complex tasks.”
He had levels of THC – an active ingredient of cannabis – of 2 micrograms per litre of blood.
On the balance of probabilities, that level of THC resulted from both longer term and recent use, TAIC said.
“On reviewing the evidence available, it was highly likely that the pilot smoked cannabis on the morning of the flight.”
Two witnesses had seen him smoking on the balcony of a shed shortly before the flight.
The pilot was not known to smoke regular cigarettes and his urine tested negative for cotinine, which was normally found in the urine of someone who smoked regular tobacco.
That’s appalling that a balloon operator would be smoking cannabis just before a commercial flight. 11 people died in one of the more horrific ways possible – burnt alive in a small basket up in the sky. If Lance Hopping had survived, he could well be facing manslaughter charges.
Tour operators must be tested for drugs, families of the victims of the Carterton ballooning tragedy say after a damning report.
The call came as the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) said it had investigated six incidents in the past 10 years where people had tested positive for performance-impairing substances. Thirty-five people had died in those accidents.
The commission called for more stringent laws around alcohol and drugs in the transport sector.
I suspect drugs such as cannabis play a significant role in our road toll also.
The full report is here. They note:
Both long-term and recent use of cannabis may significantly impair a person’s performance of their duties, especially those involving complex tasks. Under no circumstances should operators of transport vehicles, or crew members and support crew with safety-critical roles, ever use it.
Indeed. Hitting the power lines wasn’t the fatal part of the accident. It was the decision to try and rise above them, rather than descend, which turned it from a likely bruising crash landing to the biggest aviation death toll since Erebus.