Thomas Cook has confirmed that three of its customers have died following this morning's balloon tragedy in Egypt. Two died during the accident, and another has since died after being taken to hospital. A fourth customer remains in critical condition.
The confirmation of the third death is likely to mean the death toll has risen to 19.
The hot air balloon, operated by local company Skycruise, caught fire during a sunrise flight west of Luxor. The balloon is reported to have been carrying 21 people in total.
The nationalities of the other victims have not been confirmed, but it is understood that Kuoni had holidaymakers from Hong Kong onboard who were killed. Initial reports suggested the dead included nine from Hong Kong, four from Japan two from France and two from Egypt in addition to the British victims.
An employee of Skycruise was reported to have said that two people in the balloon survived by jumping from the basket before it hit the ground. The balloon's pilot is believed to have survived the crash.
Luxor is one of the most popular destinations for travellers to Egypt and a starting point for many Nile cruises.
Thomas Cook UK & Ireland is working with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the authorities in Egypt and is sending counselling and support teams to Luxor.
Hot air balloon rides in Eygpt have been suspended while a full investigation gets underway.
Peter Fankhauser, chief executive of Thomas Cook UK & Continental Europe, said: “What happened in Luxor this morning is a terrible tragedy and the thoughts of everyone in Thomas Cook are with our guests, their family and friends.
“We have a very experienced team in resort with the two guests in the local hospital, and we’re providing our full support to the family and friends of the deceased at this difficult time.”
Thomas Cook UK has opened a hot line for concerned relatives who have guests in resort. The telephone number is 0800 107 5638.
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