Egypt balloon crash probe rules out criminal activity
LUXOR, Egypt (AFP) – Egypt’s prime minister has ordered an investigation following the deaths of up to 19 tourists in a fiery hot-air balloon crash during a sunrise flight over the ancient temple city of Luxor.
The balloon, carrying 20 tourists from Hong Kong, Japan, France, Britain and Hungary, along with the pilot, was flying at 300 metres when it caught fire, exploded and plunged to earth, a security official said.
The pilot and one tourist survived by jumping out of the basket at some point before it hit the ground, said an employee of Sky Cruise, which operates the balloon rides. Both were taken to hospital.
A video shot by a passenger on another flight appears to show smoke pouring from the balloon’s basket for some time before the balloon itself collapses, leaving the basket full of tourists to freefall to earth.
An initial probe into a hot air balloon crash that killed up to 19 tourists in Egypt has ruled out any criminal activity as a cause of the accident, the official MENA news agency reported on Wednesday.
“Investigations so far by the general prosecution show no suspicion of criminal activity,” MENA said, citing the preliminary findings of the investigation into Tuesday’s accident at the Egyptian temple city of Luxor.
Luxor Governor Saad Ezzat and a delegation of Egyptian officials, as well as tourism industry professionals, visited the scene of the crash where they placed three bouquets of white flowers before observing a minute’s silence.
Investigators have inspected the area in the dense sugarcane fields of Luxor, spoke to witnesses and residents and reviewed the operating company’s paperwork and licences.
According to the investigating teams, the company that operates the balloon rides, Sky Cruise, had passed a routine inspection by the Civil Aviation Ministry on February 13-15.
“The minister of aviation checked the documents of the company operating the balloon. He found everything is okay. The technical requirements were okay,” Governor Ezzat told reporters at the crash site.
Civil Aviation Minister Wael al-Maadawi said, meanwhile, that he had agreed to a request by British authorities to attend the probe.
“Things are very fresh at the moment. As the governor said, the investigations are ongoing, but if there is anything we could do, we will be happy to do so,” British Consul John Hamilton told AFP from Luxor.