Thursday, April 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Fiery balloon accident kills 19 tourists in Egypt

By
From page A13 | February 27, 2013 | 1 Comment

LUXOR, Egypt — The terror lasted less than two minutes: Smoke poured from a hot air balloon carrying sightseers on a sunrise flight over the ancient city of Luxor, it burst in a flash of flame and then plummeted about 1,000 feet to earth. A farmer watched helplessly as tourists trying to escape the blazing gondola leaped to their deaths.

Nineteen people were killed Tuesday in what appeared to be the deadliest hot air ballooning accident on record. A British tourist and the Egyptian pilot, who was badly burned, were the sole survivors.

The tragedy raised worries of another blow to the nation’s vital tourism industry, decimated by two years of unrest since the 2011 revolution that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The southern city of Luxor has been hit hard, with vacant hotel rooms and empty cruise ships.

It also prompted accusations that authorities have let safety standards decline amid the political turmoil and infighting, although civil aviation officials said the balloon had been inspected recently and that the pilot may have been to blame, jumping out rather than stopping the fire.

Authorities suspended hot air balloon flights, a popular tourist attraction here, while investigators determined the cause.

The balloon was carrying 20 tourists — from France, Britain, Belgium, Japan and Hong Kong — and an Egyptian pilot on a flight over Luxor, 320 miles south of Cairo, officials said. The flights provide spectacular views of the ancient Karnak and Luxor temples and the Valley of the Kings, the burial ground of Tutankhamun and other pharaohs.

According to initial indications, the balloon was in the process of landing after 7 a.m. when a cable got caught around a helium tube and a fire erupted, according to an investigator with the state prosecutor’s office.

The balloon then ascended rapidly, the investigator said. The fire detonated a gas canister and the balloon plunged about 300 meters (1,000 feet) to the ground, crashing in a sugar cane field outside al-Dhabaa village just west of Luxor, a security official said.

Both the investigator and the security official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

“I saw tourists catching fire and they were jumping from the balloon,” said Hassan Abdel-Rasoul, a farmer in al-Dhabaa. “They were trying to flee the fire but it was on their bodies.”

One of those on fire was a visibly pregnant woman, he said.

Amateur video taken from another balloon and shown on Al-Jazeera Mubasher television showed the balloon’s final moments.

Smoke is seen rising for several seconds from the gondola, silhouetted against the risen sun. The balloon itself catches fire with a flash, and in an instant, it bursts and falls as a fireball to the ground, trailing smoke. Egyptians on the balloon filming the scene can be heard crying and gasping in horror at the sight.

The bodies of the tourists were scattered across the field around the remnants of the balloon, as rescue officials collected the remains.

The crash immediately killed 18, according to Luxor Gov. Ezzat Saad. Two Britons and the pilot were taken to a hospital, but one of the Britons died of his injuries soon after.

Among the dead were nine tourists from Hong Kong, four Japanese — including a couple in their 60s — two French, a Belgian and a second Briton, according to Egyptian officials, although there were conflicting reports on the nationality of the 19th victim.

The toll surpasses what was believed by ballooning experts to be the deadliest accident in the sport’s 200-year history: In 1989, 13 people were killed when their hot air balloon collided with another over the Australian outback near the town of Alice Springs.

Luxor has seen crashes in the past. In 2009, 16 tourists were injured when their balloon struck a cellphone transmission tower. A year earlier, seven tourists were injured in a similar 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.

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.”

The Civil Aviation Ministry, like much of the government administration, has seen political disputes since President Mohammed Morsi came to power in June as Egypt’s first freely elected leader.

The ministry was long dominated by military officers or former officers, some of whom have resented control by a civilian president, particularly one from the Muslim Brotherhood. In other ministries, observers say Brotherhood members have been appointed, or included as volunteers, in many posts.

One civil aviation ministry official told the AP that standards have fallen since civilians were brought in to some middle-ranking positions. The official said inspections have become more lax, taking place once a month instead of weekly. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to talk about the industry.

The crash added to the woes for residents of Luxor. Scared off by the turmoil and tenuous security following the uprising, the number of tourists coming to Egypt fell to 9.8 million in 2011 from 14.7 million the year before, and revenues plunged 30 percent to $8.8 billion. Last year saw a slight rise, but most tourists go to the beach resorts of the Red Sea, staying away from Nile Valley sites like Luxor.

That has been devastating for the local economy, with some government estimates saying that 75 percent of the labor force is connected to tourism. Luxor’s hotels are about 25 percent full in what is supposed to be the peak of the winter season.

Poverty swelled at the country’s fastest rate in Luxor. In 2011, 39 percent of its population lived on less than $1 a day, compared with 18 percent in 2009, according to government figures.

Mohammed Haggag, owner of Viking, a company that runs seven balloons in Luxor, said the flight shutdown meant that the whole industry was suffering for one pilot’s mistake.

“Why the mass punishment? Do you stop all flights when you have a plane crash?” he said. “You will cut the livelihoods for nearly 3,000 human beings who live on this kind of tourism.”

Khaled Wanis, the owner of a shop selling tourist trinkets near Luxor Temple, said the past two years have been the worst he has ever seen.

“I can spend a week or 10 days before a customer knocks my door,” he said. “Since I heard the news today, I felt ache in my heart.

“The general feeling is that Egypt is hard to visit and this is not a safe place to visit. The accident will only add to this feeling,” Wanis said. “We are begging for tourists. Now, they get killed, so what do you expect?”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Incorporate, Materialize, PersonifyFebruary 27, 2013 - 12:44 am

    Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wished to mention that I've really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing on your feed and I am hoping you write once more soon!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
Congressman talks Travis, water

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

Travis lines up 2 days of aviation excellence

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Appreciate how good we have it now

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2

 
 
Dixon May Fair has deals on advance tickets

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Garamendi talks love, pro football and Peace Corps

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 4 Comments | Gallery

 
Author to sign books at Vacaville Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Kroc Center women schedule inaugural Taster Tea

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Docents to lead paddling tour in marsh

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Juneteenth committee extends vendors, exhibitors deadline

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Congressional Art Competition is back

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Spilled tomato juice case set for trial

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 5 Comments

Theme park welcomes seal pup

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
 
Suisun City police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Weather for Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

Fairfield police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Syrian activists accuse Assad of new gas attacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Murder charge for Vallejo man in head-on crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

California bill reignites affirmative action fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

 
Andy Lopez protest leads to school campus lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

Navy Cross bestowed on heroic Marine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Airport official: Teen had no clue he was in Maui

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

 
Rail safety effort marred by squabbling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Small Wyoming town evacuated after gas explosion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Bashtag: NYPD Twitter campaign backfires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case gets new name

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Lawyer: US man held in Cuba seeks to go home soon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Captain who left doomed ferry had 40 years at sea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Russian social media CEO quits, flees country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Amid Russia warning, Ukraine is in a security bind

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
State senators get ethics training after scandals

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 7 Comments

.

Opinion

Question of the week: Will Flight 370 be found?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

 
Be the first and give specifics

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

What we can do about crime

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 14 Comments

 
Castro at odds with mentor on deportations

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11

Some Earth Day boos and cheers

By Jay Ambrose | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

When Joe’s mad at me, he also ignores my 7-year-old son

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for April 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Jodie Foster weds artist Alexandra Hedison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Singer Chris Brown’s DC trial delayed for months

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Mustangs swim to sweep of Indians

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Warriors, Clippers to meet in Oakland for Game 3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Sharks confident with chance to sweep LA Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Girls soccer update: Armijo, Vanden on way to playoffs

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

A’s reject 10-year Coliseum lease offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prep softball: Vanden rolls to 14-0 win over Fairfield

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Prep badminton: Unbeaten Mustangs cruise past Crushers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Prep boys golf: Vikings suffer SCAC loss to Panthers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Sanchez’s slam in 11th helps Giants beat Rox 12-10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Prep track: Armijo girls get win in MEL 4-way meet

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Perez helps Rangers sweep A’s with 3-0 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Emmert supports more efficient, effective NCAA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Phelps having fun in his return to swimming

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Suns’ Dragic honored as NBA’s Most Improved Player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Seahawks to open NFL season vs. Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Oldest living ex-MLB player dies in Cuba at 102

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Business

Wellness programs grow more popular with employers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Sales of new US homes plunge 14.5 percent in March

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Buffett disapproves of Coca-Cola’s pay plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

US stocks edge lower after a six-day rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment

 
.

Obituaries

Phyllis J. Miller

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dondi Martin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard Of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9