Hot air balloon crash: One dead and 12 injured after tourist flight crashes in Egypt

South African tourist killed in incident, officials say

Tom Embury-Dennis
Friday 05 January 2018 08:55
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Hot air balloon trips across Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, near Luxor, are a popular tourist attraction
Hot air balloon trips across Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, near Luxor, are a popular tourist attraction

A hot air balloon carrying 20 people crashed near the ancient city of Luxor, killing one person and injuring 12 others, Egyptian officials said.

The flight crash-landed west of the city on Friday morning after strong winds blew the balloon off course above the city’s temples and tombs.

No UK citizens were involved, the Foreign Office said. Those on board the flight included foreign nationals from South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, France and Australia, as well as Egyptian tourists, local media reported.

A health ministry spokesperson said two of the injured were in a serious condition.

The balloon took off shortly before sunrise and flew about 45 minutes at an altitude of 450 metres (1,476 feet) before strong winds caused the pilot to lose control. The balloon crash-landed in a mountainous area, officials said.

The tourist who was killed was believed to be South African.

Other balloons had taken off around the same time but landed safely, the officials added, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Earlier in the day, Egypt’s meteorological service had warned of strong winds across the country, mainly in the Nile River delta and northern Egypt.

Hot air balloon drama

Hot air balloon incidents have occurred in the past over ancient Luxor. The deadliest took place in 2013 when a balloon flying over the city caught fire and plunged about 305 metres (1,000 feet) to the ground, crashing into a sugar cane field and killing at least 19 foreign tourists.

In 2016, Egypt temporarily halted balloon flights after 22 Chinese tourists suffered minor injuries in a crash-landing of their hot air balloon.

Over the years, Egypt has tightened safety rules for balloon rides, which are now monitored by cameras and banned from flying above 2,000 metres (6,562 feet).

Hot air balloon flights above Luxor are famous among tourists for because of the spectacular views of the ancient Karnak and the temples of Luxor. Such flights usually start before sunrise and pass over green fields leading to the Valley of the Kings – the burial site of famous boy king Tutankhamun and other pharaohs.

Egypt’s vital but ailing tourism industry, partially driven by sightseeing, has been hit hard by extremist attacks and political turmoil following the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

In 2015, tourism was dealt a blow when Isis’s affiliate in Egypt downed a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. Egypt never officially announced what the cause was but Isis said it blew up the plane with a bomb smuggled on board.

After that bombing, Russia imposed a ban on all flights to Egypt and Egypt’s national carrier is still barred from flying to Russia. Flights between Moscow and Cairo are expected to resume in February, after more than a two-year hiatus.

The Egyptian government has been trying to draw tourists back to the country by announcing ancient discoveries and tightening security measures around tourist sites.

Additional reporting by AP

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