Space scientist dies in Turkish balloon crash

  • @tompeck

A leading British space scientist was killed yesterday when two hot air balloons apparently collided in Turkey.

Dr Kevin Beurle, 53, died after the balloon he was travelling in hit another and plummeted 50 metres to the ground shortly after taking off near the village of Zelve, in Nevsehir province, for a tour of the Cappadocia region. Nine other tourists, eight British and one French, were also injured. Most suffered bruises and broken bones, although one is in a critical condition.

Asim Hacimustafaoglu, Governor of Nevsehir province, said: "We are still unsure as to the cause of the accident and whether Mr Beurle died on impact with the ground or jumped from the balloon in panic."

Dr Beurle worked as a physicist at Queen Mary, University of London and was the lead programmer for the Cassini Orbiter, which is currently observing Saturn. He lived in Streatham, south London and was on holiday with a friend, Juliet Boas, who was also on board when the balloon crashed. The night before the crash Dr Beurle had posted a message on his Facebook page saying he was "enjoying the tufa landscape of Cappadocia".

The region, famed for its distinctive rock formations known as "fairy chimneys", is considered one of the best ballooning spots in the world. Although wind conditions are ideal first thing in the morning they can become dangerous later in the day. Ballooners are warned to consider which companies to choose to fly with, as some in the area are said to be poorly equipped.