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Thursday, 30 August, 2001, 08:03 GMT 09:03 UK
Aaliyah pilot had cocaine charge
Candlelit vigil for Aaliyah
There was a vigil for the singer in Los Angeles on Monday
The pilot of the Cessna aircraft in which singer Aaliyah died on Saturday had pleaded "no contest" to cocaine possession and other crimes just 12 days before the crash, it has emerged.

Luis Antonio Morales Blanes, 30, entered the plea in Broward County court on 13 August after being charged with possession of cocaine, dealing in stolen property, theft and driving with a suspended licence, said authorities in Florida.

Aaliyah's body being airlifted
Aaliyah's body was airlifted from Nassau on Tuesday
And a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said that the pilot was not authorised to fly the Cessna aircraft for its owners, Blackhawk International Airways.

There have already been reports that the aircraft which crashed in Marsh Harbour in the northern Bahamas, was overloaded by as much as 1,120 kg.


Singer Aaliyah, 22, died along with eight other people when the twin-engined Cessna, bound for Opa-locka in Florida, crashed shortly after take-off.

She had been in the Bahamas with the other victims to shoot a music video.

Crashed Cessna
Reports say the Cessna may have been overloaded
According to FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen, Blackhawk has been reprimanded four times since 1997 for various violations.

These include failing to follow drug-testing rules for employees in 1999 and failing to perform proper aircraft maintenance in 2000.

Mr Morales had not been listed as the pilot for the Cessna by its owners, added Ms Bergen.


Although the company had been cleared to fly charter flights under an air-taxi certificate, which authorises a single pilot to fly the plane, Ms Bergen said that the authorized pilot was not Mr Morales.

The Bahamian and US crash investigators have not yet released formal findings, but police have said that they are investigating whether overloading or engine failure played a role in the crash.

Witnesses reportedly said the aircraft had engine trouble before take-off - and that baggage handlers told those boarding the propeller plane they believed there was too much luggage.

Aaliyah's album sales have jumped
Aaliyah's body was flown to New York on Tuesday and Scott Gallin, 41, her bodyguard, was buried in Miami on Wednesday.

The bodies of five other victims were flown to the US on Wednesday and the pilot's body is set to be returned to Puerto Rico on Thursday.

Police in Nassau have been awaiting a positive identification of the last victim from dental records before releasing his body.

Aaliyah's latest album has leapt eight places to number 19 in the US album charts since her death, according to SoundScan data released on Wednesday.

Sales have jumped by 41%, says the company - and sales are expected to show a further rise in this week's figures.

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