Carterton balloon crash victim's father welcomes drug testing plan

Lance Hopping
Lance Hopping

The father of a woman killed in the Carterton balloon disaster is welcoming the move to introduce mandatory random drug and alcohol testing to the commercial aviation sector.

Today's announcement comes after investigators found Carterton pilot Lance Hopping had traces of cannabis in his system, which may have contributed to his poor decision-making.

Alan Still's daughter, Alexis, was one of 10 passengers killed when a hot air balloon piloted by Mr Hopping crashed into power lines in Carterton four years ago.

A coroner found Mr Hopping's long-term use of cannabis contributed to his poor decision-making.

Mr Still believes his daughter would be alive today if random drug testing had been in place.

From next year, all commercial aviation and maritime operators must have drug and alcohol plans, which need to include random testing.

The Civil Aviation Authority and Maritime New Zealand also get more powers to authorise testing.

"We already have it in areas like engineers working for a carrier for Air New Zealand," says Prime Minister John Key. "We have it where people work in the forestry sector, and it's only appropriate we have it in this sector."

Since 2004 at least 41 people have died in incidents involving drug-impaired people in safety-critical roles.

A crew member on fishing vessel Kotuku had been using cannabis when it sunk in the Foveaux Strait in 2006, killing six.

Eight people died when the Easy Rider vessel sank in 2012, also in Foveaux Strait. One person on board had high levels of THC in their system and another had been drinking alcohol.

Mr Still is pleased the Government has finally listened to calls for a testing regime.

He hopes it means no family has to lose a loved one in the same way he lost his daughter.