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At least 19 people dead in hot air balloon ride in Egypt

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Nineteen people were killed after a hot air balloon carrying 20 tourists exploded in the morning skies in Luxor, Egypt. The balloon was flying at an altitude of nearly 1,000 feet over eastern Luxor, in south-eastern Egypt. Victims were listed as being from France, Great Britain, Japan, Hungary and Hong Kong. Two survivors, one of whom was the balloon's pilot were taken to a local hospital.
 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Ahmed Aboud, a spokesman for companies that operate balloon flights in the area says that the crash happened after a gas explosion when the balloon was aloft.

Bodies of the balloon's travelers were scattered across the field around the remnants of the balloon.

Witnesses were horrified by what they saw. Konny Matthews, an assistant manager of Luxor's Al Moudira Hotel, said he had heard an explosion that morning. "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 head of Japan Travel Bureau's Egypt branch, Atsushi Imaeda, confirmed that four Japanese died in the crash.

In addition, Raymond Ng Do-Wing of the Hong Kong travel agency Kuoni said there was a "very big chance" that nine of the Hong Kong tourists aboard the balloon have died. In Britain, tour operator Thomas Cook confirmed that two British tourists were dead.

An employee of Sky Cruise, the company operating the balloon, says that the pilot and one of the tourists survived by jumping out of the basket before it plunged to the ground.

The governor of Luxor province Ezzat Saad imposed an immediate ban on all hot-air balloon flights in the province as Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Qandil ordered an investigation into the accident.

Although hot-air balloon accidents in Egypt have led to injuries in the past, there has been "nothing on this scale" since ballooning in the area began in 1989, our correspondent said. It wasn't the first such accident with hot air balloons in the area. Tourists were injured when their hot-air balloon crashed in 2009 near Luxor. The balloon at that time was overcrowded.

Egypt's tourism industry has suffered a sharp downturn in visitor numbers since the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, with two years of political instability scaring off foreign tourists.

With the nation's unstable political situation, the question arises: Was this really an accident?

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