Beginning September 1st, a new law will go into effect allowing Texans to take guns on board hot air balloons. The new law received no opposition from Texas lawmakers and allows for the hunting of feral hogs and coyotes from hot air balloons.
According to US News, Texas’ growing hog population causes millions of dollars’ worth of damage to crops every year. It is estimated that Texas is home to around two million feral hogs. Due to the animals high breeding rate and lack of natural predators, the population has skyrocketed.
The public is outraged by the new developments as they feel lawmakers should be focused on other issues – such as enhanced safety precautions for hot air balloons. The law was passed not even a year after the tragic hot air balloon crash in Lockhart where all 16 passengers on board perished.
According to sources, it is believed that the balloon struck a series of power lines as it crashed in pastured land. Witnesses say they heard a loud noise in the early morning hours of July 30th when the balloon crashed, followed by a ball of fire that went up into the air. The balloon crash is known as the most fatal and horrific crash in United States history.
The news outlet, My San Antonio, reported that the pilot was told that the weather conditions were not favorable for a flight some two hours before the accident occurred. The pilot was told that the clouds may be an issue, however, he decided to take a chance and fly the balloon anyway.
Unfortunately, his decision was a grave mistake. According to various weather reports, the cloud ceiling was at 700 feet and there was no indication that the sky would clear. It was also reported that Pilot Nichols used various medications as he was believed to suffer from depression and chronic pain. Nichols had also been convicted of four charges of drunk driving in Missouri and his license was suspended. Yet, he was still allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate commercial hot air balloons. Currently, the FAA does not require for hot air balloon pilots to undergo drug testing; they simply take the pilots at their word. This honesty system has family members of the victims outraged and they demand lawmakers to do something about the lenient qualifications. It is believed that if tighter regulations were in place, this tragedy could have been avoided.
A hearing that took place in Washington D.C. exhibited a photograph that a passenger took on their cell phone just before the crash happened. It showed a visible layer of clouds and in view was a transmission tower through a hole in the clouds.
Family members have submitted a petition to Texas lawmakers for increased safety measures to avoid another tragedy like this from happening. Patricia Morgan, the grandmother of two of the victims, considers this one of the most devastating and horrific times in her life. She hopes that this tragedy can spark a movement to enhance the safety guidelines. The petition caught the attention of Senator Ted Cruz who introduced legislation that would require medical exams for balloon pilots.
Unfortunately, no further developments have been made regarding the measure. Lawmakers have chosen to focus on allowing guns on balloons to kill pigs instead of focusing on public safety. Another scenario where lawmakers have missed the point.