Egypt hot air balloon crash kills 18, mostly foreign tourists

Police and rescue officials check the wreckage of a hot air balloon that crashed in Luxor. Credit: Reuters
Police and rescue officials check the wreckage of a hot air balloon that crashed in Luxor.
Credit: Reuters

At least 18 people, most of them Asian and European tourists, were killed when a hot air balloon crashed on Tuesday near the ancient Egyptian town of Luxor following a mid-air gas explosion, officials said.

The balloon came down in farmland a few kilometers (miles) from the Valley of the Kings and pharaonic temples that draw tourists to Luxor. Rescue workers gathered the remains of the dead from the field where the charred remains of the balloon, gas canisters and other pieces of burnt wreckage landed.

One Egyptian was also killed, Health Minister Mohamed Mostafa Hamed told Reuters, listing the others killed as tourists from Japan, China, France, Britain and Hungary. Earlier, officials had said all the dead were tourists.

The pilot survived by jumping from the basket when it was 10-15 meters (yards) from the ground, said Ahmed Aboud, head of an association representing Luxor balloon operators. Two other survivors, both British, were being treated at Luxor hospital, said Mohamed Mustafa, a doctor at Luxor hospital. The fatalities were caused by burns and by the impact, he said.

“We believe a small number of British nationals are involved in an incident in Luxor this morning,” Britain’s Foreign Office said in an emailed statement. The Japanese embassy in Cairo said it believed four Japanese had been aboard and had sent staff to Luxor to confirm. France’s foreign ministry said two French citizens had been killed.

Aboud said the blast had happened in the pipe linking the gas canisters to the burner. He said that it was an accident.

Transport accidents are frequent in Egypt. Dozens of children were killed in November when the bus they were on collided with a train. Accidents affecting foreign tourists are fewer, but are not unusual. Five Germans were killed in December in a bus crash near a Red Sea resort.

Konny Matthews, assistant manager of Luxor’s Al Moudira hotel, said she heard an explosion at about 7 a.m. (0500 GMT). “It was a huge bang. It was a frightening bang, even though it was several kilometers away from the hotel,” she said by phone. “Some of my employees said that their homes were shaking.”

The balloon crashed on the west bank of the Nile river, where many of the major historical sites are located.

U.S. photographer Christopher Michel, who was on board another balloon, told Britain’s Sky News television that the balloon was one of eight flying at the time.

“We heard a loud explosion behind us. I looked back and saw lots of smoke. It wasn’t immediately clear that it was a balloon,” he said.

Hot air ballooning at dawn is popular with tourists, who are a mainstay of the Egyptian economy, although visitor numbers have fallen sharply since a 2011 uprising that toppled veteran President Hosni Mubarak. Two years of political instability have kept away many foreign tourists.

Tourism accounted for more than a 10th of Egypt’s gross domestic product before the revolt. In 2010, about 14.7 million visitors came to Egypt, but this slumped to 9.8 million people the next year.

The civil aviation minister said a committee from the ministry was heading to Luxor to investigate the incident, the state news agency reported. The minister along with other officials from the ministry also went to Luxor.

The governor of Luxor ordered an immediate halt to all ballooning, the state-run al-Ahram newspaper reported.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Girl, 10, dies after being pulled from water…

A 10-year-old girl died after being pulled from the waters off Coney Island Beach in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, police said.

News

NY judge throws out lawsuit by Empire State…

A New York state judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which longtime investors in the Empire State Building claimed they were shortchanged out of hundreds of millions of dollars…

Local

Mysterious white flags appear over Brooklyn Bridge

Two white flags mysteriously appeared over the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday in place of the American flags that are a traditional fixture.

National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 7,…

Drunk girls and ghost brownies: here’s your weekly ‘Pretty Little Liars’ recap by way of Q&A. Q: do they really not check for feet under…

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

Television

Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.

Television

'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.

NFL

David Tyree hiring has gay rights advocates angry

Former Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree will re-join the franchise as its new director of player development.

NFL

Ben McAdoo's new offense has Giants excited to…

Even Tom Coughlin feels he has a lot to learn about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new offense, which makes the veteran coach very excited.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.