Egypt balloon tragedy

Governor of Luxor apologises for deadly balloon tragedy

City leader expresses sorrow for death of 19 tourists in balloon disaster and says he will follow any directives from inquiry into tragedy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 March, 2013, 5:15am

The governor of the Egyptian city of Luxor and the operator of the hot-air balloon that exploded and killed 19 tourists have apologised for the tragedy.

Governor Ezzat Saad also told local media he was willing to introduce tougher safety measures for balloons if an investigation indicated a need.

"I feel very sorry about it and I would like to take this opportunity to send my condolences to the families of the nine Hong Kong people who died in this accident," he said. "We will see what the exact reason behind all this is. Was this a human mistake or an accident? For example, if the investigation says there is a need to inspect balloons daily instead of weekly, we will do that."

Mahmoud Mohtady, who works for Sky Cruise, said: "We are awfully sorry for the loss of lives. God bless them. It's a disaster. It's just an accident."

The operator has been under media scrutiny since the disaster on Tuesday, when its balloon caught fire when landing, rose to 300 metres then exploded and crashed into a sugarcane field.

Only the pilot and a British passenger survived, by either jumping to safety or being thrown out of the gondola.

The owner of the field, Hassan Yasen, said he planned to build a monument at the site.

"The Hong Kong government can also erect a structure on the site, allowing family of the deceased to pay their tributes. There can be a monument with all the victims' names," he said.

Yasen said he saw the balloon explode. He found many bodies torn to pieces and said it took authorities two days to collect all the body parts.

The Spanish maker of the balloon, Ultra Magic, said it had offered to co-operate with the authorities carrying out the inquiry.

The pilot, Mohmin Morad, suffered serious burns and is still being treated at a Cairo hospital. He is unable to give evidence. His sister Marwa Ali told The Guardian newspaper that he was concerned about his passengers.

"When he wakes up, he asks about the guests," she said, although he was only awake for two minutes at a time. "But he doesn't know what happened because we are afraid to tell him."

In a statement issued through the British Foreign Office, Michael Rennie, the only passenger to survive, said: "Yvonne [his wife who died in the crash] was my rock, my friend, my shoulder to cry on. She was my world. My heartfelt condolences go out to the other families that have lost relatives around the world in this terrible disaster."