TribLIVE

| USWorld


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

19 killed in Egypt balloon crash

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Associated Press
Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, 8:33 p.m.
 

LUXOR, Egypt — The terror lasted less than two minutes: Smoke poured from a hot air balloon carrying sightseers on a sunrise flight over the ancient city of Luxor, it burst in a flash of flame and then plummeted about 1,000 feet to earth. A farmer watched helplessly as tourists trying to escape the blazing gondola leaped to their deaths.

Nineteen people were killed Tuesday in what appeared to be the deadliest hot air ballooning accident on record. A British tourist and the Egyptian pilot, who was badly burned, were the sole survivors.

The tragedy raised worries of another blow to the nation's vital tourism industry, decimated by two years of unrest since the 2011 revolution that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The southern city of Luxor has been hit hard, with vacant hotel rooms and empty cruise ships.

It also prompted accusations that authorities have let safety standards decline amid the political turmoil and infighting, although civil aviation officials said the balloon had been inspected recently and that the pilot may have been to blame, jumping out rather than stopping the fire.

Authorities suspended hot air balloon flights, a popular tourist attraction here, while investigators determined the cause.

The balloon was carrying 20 tourists — from France, Britain, Belgium, Japan and Hong Kong — and an Egyptian pilot on a flight over Luxor, 320 miles south of Cairo, officials said. The flights provide spectacular views of the ancient Karnak and Luxor temples and the Valley of the Kings, the burial ground of Tutankhamun and other pharaohs.

According to initial indications, the balloon was in the process of landing after 7 a.m. when a cable got caught around a helium tube and a fire erupted, according to an investigator with the state prosecutor's office.

The balloon then ascended rapidly, the investigator said. The fire detonated a gas canister, and the balloon plunged about 1,000 feet to the ground, crashing in a sugar cane field outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of Luxor, a security official said.

Both the investigator and the security official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

“I saw tourists catching fire, and they were jumping from the balloon,” said Hassan Abdel-Rasoul, a farmer in al-Dhabaa. “They were trying to flee the fire, but it was on their bodies.”

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read World

  1. Israeli leader signals no quick end to Gaza conflict
  2. Obama, European leaders agree to new Russia sanctions
  3. Pakistani mob attacks minority Muslims, suffocates 3 over Facebook rumor
  4. Libya torn by worst fighting since 2011 revolution
  5. Iraq’s split into 3 states becomes a reality
  6. Syrian casualties surge amid rise in attacks by Islamic State
  7. Israeli PM warns of ‘prolonged’ campaign in Gaza
  8. 5 killed in West Bank amid new Gaza truce efforts
  9. Afghan ballot recount paused as candidate disagree over criteria to scrap ballots
  10. Red Army’s light show signals fear Hong Kong may lose its open society
  11. Ban of flights to and from Israel feared to bolster Hamas
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.