Nineteen people were killed when a hot air balloon carrying 20 tourists exploded Tuesday morning in Luxor, Egypt. Eyewitnesses were able to take photos just minutes before and after the tragedy, and told FRANCE 24 what they saw.
The balloon was flying at an altitude of 300 metres over eastern Luxor, in south-eastern Egypt. The travel company that organised the trip says the victims are from France, Great Britain, Japan and Hong Kong. Two survivors – one of whom was the balloon’s pilot – were taken to a local hospital, according to an Egyptian security official.
When the person who took this photograph arrived a the scene, field workers were rushing to help the victims. Photo by Mahmoud Salem.
Mahmoud took the first photos of the crash, just after rescue personnel arrived on the scene.
“The field workers that are in my photos saw the hot air balloon suddenly explode, and saw passengers jump out of the basket. Someone from the company that organised the ride told me that a British person had survived. Fire-fighters arrived very quickly, as well as the governor of Luxor. Many people came to help get the bodies out of the fields.”
Pieces of the hot air balloon were strewn along the countryside in Luxor. These weights were reportedly thrown from the balloon as the pilot tried to regain altitude. Photo by Mahmoud Salem.
Moustafa works for the travel company that organised the hot air balloon ride.
I saw a fire in the balloon’s basket. Due to the fire, the balloon lost [altitude]. It was out of control. It jerked up and dropped down again 30 metres. There were some people jumping from the balloon and falling into the sugar cane fields before it crashed.
I know the pilot – he’s a good pilot. The problem wasn’t him, it was the balloon – what could he do? Everyone in our company is shocked and very sad about what’s happened.
Forty minutes before the tragedy, a trouist took this photo of one of the company's hot air balloons. Photo published on Twitter by Christopher Michel.