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Luxor hot air balloon disaster company "involved in second crash"

Theodore Koumelis - 28 February 2013, 10:28

The Luxor hot air balloon disaster that killed 19 tourists when fire engulfed their basket as they flew 1,000ft. above the ground, was the second crash involving the same company in two years, according to reports.

According to "The Independent", another balloon, allegedly belonging to Sky Cruises crashed on a tour in October 2011. There were no deaths on that occasion as the balloon crashed into the Nile. It is believed the pilot involved in that incident no longer works for Sky Cruises, which has been the preferred carrier for the travel agent Thomas Cook for several years.

A manager for Blue Sky in Luxor reportedly commented that: “Sky Cruises are the highest one on the market." He added: "All of the excursion companies we use satisfy the health and safety demands of all the major British travel companies. We work according to the laws in their countries."

Luxor has suffered air balloon accidents in the past. In 2009, 16 tourists were injured when their balloon hit a mobile phone tower.

Following the 2009 crash, early-morning hot air balloon flights over the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of the Nile were suspended for six months while safety measures were tightened up. During the break, all 42 pilots from the eight companies who operate flights had extra training.

Other initiatives to improve safety brought in included confining all take-offs to a new balloon "airport" and limiting the maximum number of balloons up at the same time to eight. Previously as many as 50 could share the air space.

All balloon flights have been halted in the area and an inquiry mounted.

The governor of Luxor, Ezzat Saad, told the BBC he wanted to send his condolences to the families of those killed and injured. "We have never seen anything quite like this in Luxor before. It is an awful thing," he said. "For the safety of the tourists and the Egyptians I have ordered all the companies dealing with balloons to stop flights until we know exactly what happened and the reasons for it."

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