Crash report questions New Zealand tourism safety

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Associated Press

Posted on October 30, 2013 at 11:03 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 11:33 PM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Crash investigators say New Zealand needs stricter laws to ensure tourists remain safe after finding the pilot of a hot-air balloon likely smoked pot last year before taking a fatal flight that killed all 11 on board.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission on Thursday urged lawmakers to pass stricter rules for pilots, boat captains and other transport operators. Citing recent fatal crashes, investigators said random drug-testing and zero-tolerance rules are needed.

In their report on the January 2012 balloon accident near Carterton, investigators concluded it was "highly likely" that 53-year-old balloon pilot Lance Hopping smoked marijuana shortly before the flight. They found he made several errors of judgment during the flight, including not rapidly descending when he struck power lines. Soon after, the balloon exploded into flames.

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