Ban on balloon flights in Egypt after tragedy

Ban on balloon flights in Egypt after tragedy

A ban on all hot air balloon flights in Luxor has been imposed as Egypt’s prime minister Hisham Qandil ordered a probe into yesterday’s fatal crash.

Britons Yvonne Rennie and Joe Bampton together with his partner, Hungarian-born UK resident Suzanna Gyetvai, were named as being among the 19 killed.

Mrs Rennie's husband went to hospital after leaping from the balloon as it exploded and plunged to the ground in flames.

Witnesses said they heard a loud explosion before seeing plumes of smoke as the balloon caught fire. People were seen jumping out from "about the height of a seven-storey building," Sky News reported.

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 Britons on board were Thomas Cook holidaymakers.

The other tourists on board, including holidaymakers from France, Hong Kong and Japan, were all thought to have died in the explosion.

The only other survivor of the crash was the pilot, an Egyptian man, who is in hospital with burns to 60% of his body.

Thomas Cook has sent support teams to Luxor and opened an emergency hotline.

Oliver Brendon, chief executive of Do Something Different, said some of its customers witnessed the tragedy from another balloon.

“Some of our customers saw it happen and were distressed and have spoken to the agent who booked them,” he said.

A “handful” of future bookings have been refunded. Brendon admitted he could not be sure if flights would go back on sale. “If we deem it too risky we won’t put them back on sale,” he said.

Attraction World sales and marketing director Tony Seaman said: “We do not use the company involved, but our feedback is that this is a genuine accident.”

Abta chief executive John McEwan said: “Egypt can ill-afford accidents like this, but this was an isolated incident.”

Two British women were among 16 injured when their balloon came down after hitting a communications tower in April 2009.

Balloons were grounded for six months after that crash while safety measures were tightened and pilots were re-trained by Egypt's Civil Aviation Authority.

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