February 26, 2013

Tourist-filled hot-air balloon ignites, crashes in Egypt

Nineteen tourists die, some by leaping from the fiery gondola that plummeted to earth near Luxor, Egypt.

The Associated Press

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Remains of the balloon’s burned gondola lie outside al-Dhabaa village Tuesday.

The Associated Press

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Images from amateur video provided by Al-Jazeera show the tragedy unfolding. The video is available below.

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Watch an amateur video of the crash

After the 2009 accident, Egypt suspended hot-air balloon flights for several months and tightened safety standards. Pilots were given more training, and a landing spot was designated for the balloons.

The head of the Civil Aviation Administration, Mohammed Sherif, told The Associated Press at the scene of the crash that the pilot had just renewed his license in January.

"Each time we renew the license, we check up the balloon and we test the pilot," Sherif said.

An aviation official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to reporters, blamed the pilot, saying initial results of the investigation showed he jumped out when the fire began, instead of shutting off valves that would have prevented the gas canister from exploding.

The pilot reportedly survived.

But the crash raised accusations that standards have fallen. Mohammed Osman, head of the Luxor's Tourism Chamber, blamed civil aviation authorities, who are in charge of licensing and inspecting balloons, accusing them of negligence.

"I don't want to blame the revolution for everything, but the laxness started with the revolution," he said. "These people are not doing their job, they are not checking the balloons and they just issue the licenses without inspection."

 

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