19 killed in Egypt balloon crash

A hot air balloon flying over Egypt’s ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field yesterday, killing at least 19 foreign tourists, a security official said.

It was one of the worst accidents involving tourists in Egypt and likely to push the key tourism industry deeper into recession.

Wreckage: Officials survey the site where the hot air balloon exploded. Based on preliminary investigations, they have ruled out foul play. Pic/AFP

The casualties included French, British, Belgian, Hungarian, Japanese nationals and nine tourists from Hong Kong, said Luxor Governor Ezzat Saad.

Three survivors of the crash — two British tourists and one Egyptian — were taken to a local hospital. A Briton died in Egypt after doctors reportedly battled to save him for five hours, taking the death toll to 19.

Egypt’s civil aviation minister, Wael el-Maadawi, suspended hot air balloon flights and flew to Luxor to lead the investigation into the crash.

According to an Egyptian security official, the balloon carrying at least 21 tourists was flying over Luxor on Tuesday morning when it caught fire, which triggered an explosion in its gas canister, then plunged at least 300 meters from the sky.

Bodies of the dead tourists were scattered across the field around the remnants of the balloon. The security official said foul play has been ruled out.

In the past
The site of the accident has seen past crashes.
>> In 2009, 16 tourists were injured when their balloon struck a cellphone transmission tower.
>> A year earlier, seven tourists were injured in a similar crash. 

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