Local ballooner remembers pilot lost in deadly crash

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Philip Bryant came to know Skip Nichols through his balloon inspection and maintenance work and described him as a fun-loving and an all-around good guy who loved ballooning.

Nichols was identified as the pilot who was killed in a hot air balloon crash that killed 16 near Lockhart early Saturday morning.

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At least 16 people died outside of Austin on Saturday in what is now the deadliest hot air balloon accident in U.S. history.

Bryant last inspected Nichols' balloon more than a year ago. He could not do Nichols' inspection this summer because of a scheduling conflict. He says Saturday's crash hits the ballooning community hard.

"The impact is profound. It's bad enough to lose a fellow pilot. It's much more horrific to lose innocent passengers, people that trusted [themselves] to the sport. It's very, very rare we see an incident of this magnitude occur in the United States," he said.

Bryant says balloon pilots must go to safety school every year and they all pay close attention to safety on a regular basis. He added that Nichols had good, safe equipment but we don't know yet when the last inspection was done on the balloon that crashed.
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