At least 18 foreign tourists were killed in a hot air balloon crash near the historic city of Luxor. The balloon was flying at approximately 700 feet when before an explosion was heard and the balloon plunged into a sugar cane field near Luxor.
Of the 20 passengers on board at the time, 18 were killed. According to a Health Ministry official, the victims include nine from Hong Kong, four from Japan, two from the UK, two from France, and one Hungarian.
A representative for the hot air balloon company has stated that “One tourist and the Egyptian pilot survived.” The two that survived are reported to have jumped out of the balloon before it crashed. The tourist – a British national – is in stable condition at hospital, while the pilot has suffered 70% burns and is in critical condition.
Eye-witnesses have reported hearing an explosion before the balloon plunged into the ground. One hotel employee stated that he saw a flash of light before hearing a loud explosion. “It was a loud boom that made everyone jump.”
According to eye-witnesses interviewed by the BBC, “People were jumping out of the balloon from about the height of a seven-storey building.”
Health Ministry officials have stated that ambulances arrived at the scene within minutes of the accident. Other witnesses claimed that it took 20 minutes for the emergency services to arrive.
Security sources have confirmed a gas cylinder exploded on board the balloon, leading to the crash. An investigator told reporters that a landing cable got caught around a helium tube, leading to the fire.
Hot air balloon rides are a major tourist attraction for those visiting Luxor. The rides generally take place at sun-rise and have traditionally been very popular, giving tourists a view of Luxor’s many historic sites. At the time of the crash, at least five other hot air balloons were also operating.
In April 2009, a hot air balloon crashed, injuring 16 tourists. Egypt, which has seen a dramatic drop in the number of tourists since the 2011 revolution, is bound to face a further downturn following this tragedy. Following this accident, serious measures were taken to avoid the repeat of another – including the imposition of stricter restrictions on the ability to obtain licenses for the operation of hot air balloons. However, security conditions since the 2011 revolution have meant that the imposition of strict regulations has become more lax.
Updated: 2:02PM Local Time