Nineteen tourists were killed Monday in a hot air balloon crash near Luxor, Egypt, making it the deadliest balloon crash worldwide in decades. Details of the episode are still emerging, but the Washington Post reported that a landing cable got caught around a helium tube, which caused a fire and subsequent gas explosion. The balloon and its 21 passengers plummeted to the ground from about 1,000 feet, scattering bodies and remnants of the balloon in a sugar cane field. Three people, including the balloon’s pilot, survived the crash. One, a British tourist, later died in the hospital.
No official numbers have been released regarding those killed in the crash. The majority of the victims were from Hong Kong. Tourists of Japanese, French, British, Belgian and Hungarian nationalities were also reportedly on board the balloon. Hot air ballooning is a popular tourist activity in the area as it provides a spectacular view of the temples of Luxor and Karnak and the Valley of the Kings.
Though fatal accidents are rare, several tourists have been injured in hot air balloon accidents near Luxor in the past few years. The Post reported that Egypt’s civil aviation minister Wael el-Maadawy has suspended all hot air balloon activities during the initial investigation into the fatal crash.