Egypt hot air balloon crash kills 19 Asian, European tourists

Egypt hot air balloon crash kills 19 Asian, European tourists

At least 19 people, mostly Asian and European tourists, were killed today in one of the deadliest hot air balloon accidents in history as the fun ride ended on a tragic note near the ancient Egyptian temple city of Luxor.

The balloon was at 1,000 ft (300 metres) when it caught fire and exploded, plunging onto sugarcane fields west of Luxor, officials said.

The hot air balloon carrying 21 people caught fire mid-air before crashing to the ground, General Mamdough Khaled, director of security for Luxor Governate said in a statement.

Passengers in the balloon included 19 foreign tourists, from Hong Kong, France, Japan and Britain. An Egyptian pilot and another Egyptian were also on board, Luxor province spokesman Badawi al-Masri said.

Luxor International Hospital received 19 badly burned bodies, Khaled said.

At least two people, including the balloon's pilot, survived, reportedly by jumping out of the balloon before it crashed.

Security services cordoned off crash site as police inspected the charred remains of the balloon.
The public prosecutor has begun a probe into the crash.

Media reports said that the preliminary investigation showed that the balloon was about to land and actually did throw out the anchor.

The accident occurred when the anchor's rope cut the tube of helium and caught fire. The balloon was once again raised by air currents before it exploded. The explosion caused the bodies to char and disperse over a wide area of agricultural land, according to reports.

The balloon was operated by a company named Sky Cruise, state-run MENA news agency reported.
British tour operator Thomas Cook confirmed that four of its clients were on board the balloon, two had died and two were in hospital.

"We have a very experienced team in resort with the two guests in the local hospital, and we're providing our full support to the family and friends of the deceased at this difficult time," Peter Fankhauser, CEO of Thomas Cook UK and Europe, said.

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