Egypt balloon tragedy

Hong Kong aviation officials left out of Egypt crash probe

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 4:43am

Egyptian authorities have turned down a request from the Hong Kong government to help investigate the hot-air balloon crash that killed 19 people, including nine local tourists, last week.

This was disclosed last night in a reply to press inquiries from the Civil Aviation Department which appeared to suggest that the Egyptian government's decision went against international practice.

It brought strong criticism of both governments by a former department chief who said the Egyptians had acted too hastily in starting their inquiry and Hong Kong had been too slow in putting in its request.

The department said that after the accident in Luxor it had "immediately" contacted the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority and appointed a senior operations officer to join the investigation. "The Egyptian authority advised that given it had already commenced the investigation, there is no need for representatives from other states or places to go there," the Hong Kong department said.

But it added that, according to International Civil Aviation Organisation standards, "if the accident involves fatalities and injuries of citizens of other states or places, such state or place shall be entitled to appoint a representative to take part in the investigation".

Egypt's head of the investigation, Walid el-Moqadem, said earlier that Hong Kong, Britain and Japan had been given an "advisory role".

The 19 dead included nationals from Japan, Britain, France and an Egyptian. Only a tourist and the pilot survived.

Former director of civil aviation Peter Lok Kung-nam said that both the Hong Kong and Egyptian authorities were to blame.

Lok asked why, if other affected places were entitled to join the investigation, the work would have started without them.

They should have asked Hong Kong officers to join, and Hong Kong should also have made the request earlier

"It seems the Egyptian authorities do not know [the protocol]," he said. "They should have asked Hong Kong officers to join, and Hong Kong should also have made the request earlier."

The Hong Kong department said it had established a communication channel with its Egyptian counterpart, and had asked it to provide information on the progress of the investigation.

The Immigration Department said it had "no updates" on the transport arrangement of the nine bodies from Egypt to Hong Kong, saying it was "still working" on it.