A hot air balloon crashed on Tuesday morning near the Egyptian city of Luxor, resulting in the deaths of nineteen tourists.

The hot air balloon is thought to have caught fire and exploded, consequently landing in a sugar cane field west of Luxor, 320 miles south of Cairo.

Mohamed Youssef, a pilot with Luxor-based Alaska Balloons, was flying his own balloon approximately 100 metres from the crash and witnessed it happening. According to Youssef, the fire was caused by a leak in one of the gas cylinders.

As one passenger and the pilot leapt out, the balance inside the balloon shifted, sending more heat into the balloon’s envelope and causing it to rise sharply into the air. Youssef said some passengers died as they hit land while others died as a result of their burns.

It has been reported that passengers in the balloon included nineteen foreign tourists: nine from Hong Kong, four from Japan, three from Britain, two from France and one from Hungary.

When the balloon landed there was a slight pause before one of the gas cylinders exploded.

Civil aviation minister for Egypt, Wael el-Maadwi, has put an embargo on hot air balloon flights and has personally flown to Luxor to lead an investigation into the crash.

After two years of political unrest following the protests, which resulted in the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, this tragedy has dealt yet another another blow to Egypt’s ailing tourist industry.

Helena Murphy

Photo courtesy of Henry Patton

 

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