Pilot Had Cocaine in His System When Plane Filled with Instagram Stars and Models Crashed: Report

A student pilot who was aboard a private plane that crashed with five other social media influencers had cocaine in his system

A student pilot who was aboard a private plane that crashed with five other social media influencers was under the influence of cocaine.

James Pedroza, 28, was sitting in the front of the plane that crashed on April 9 and had cocaine in his system the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office in Arizona told the Arizona Republic.

It is not clear who was in control of the plane at the time of the crash as Pedroza, a VIP host in Las Vegas, was sitting with Erik Valente, 26, who was a certified pilot.

Both men along with Mariah Sunshine Coogan, 23, Anand Patel, 26, Helena Lagos, 22 and Iris Rodriguez Garcia, 23, died in the crash.

Online records on the medical examiner’s website indicate Pedroza died of blunt force injuries and thermal trauma.

All but one of the passengers suffered from blunt force injuries and burns. Coogan died from blunt force injuries but not burns, records show.


The plane was headed for Las Vegas but never made it as it plummeted into TPC Scottsdale Champions Golf Course shortly after takeoff.

Before they crashed, Pedroza checked in with air traffic control, although he did not indicate that he was having trouble with the plane, according to CBS News.

“Are you experiencing any difficulty?” The air traffic controller asked him, according to the news station.


“Uh, we’re good, we’re just a training lesson,” Pedroza replied just moments before the plane went down.

Coogan had 28,000 followers on Instagram, and regularly posted pictures of herself poolside or with friends. The Arizona Republic reports that the 23-year-old was also a horse trainer who left high school in 2012 to pursue a career in modeling.

Mariah Coogan/Instagram

“She was eager for adventure, and I always found her easy to speak with,” Principal Graham Rutherford of Cardinal Newman High School in California, told the news outlet of Coogan. “She got on well with many students, too.”

Pedroza worked as a host at a gay nightclub in Las Vegas, friend Garrett Pattiani told The Republic.

“I am sad that he is gone, but loved how he lived life to the fullest. He was wanting to see the world and travel. He will be missed,” he said. “He never judged anyone and was always there to stand up for equal rights.”


His roommate, Micah Griggs, said he had been dating Lagos for six months.

“They were pushing six months, it was a big deal,” Griggs told Fox 5. “They were just dynamite together. They just loved life.”

On Instagram, Pedroza called himself an “avid traveler” and boasted more than 12,000 followers on the site while sharing photos of his adventures.

In his bio, he proudly wrote that he has visited 36 countries and was looking forward to visiting his 37th.

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