Six of the nine Hong Kong victims in the hot-air balloon crash in Luxor have been identified by relatives but the remaining three are too badly disfigured and will need forensic or DNA tests.
Chief inspector Cheung Wai-man of the Hong Kong police said in Cairo yesterday that three men and three women had been visually identified. Two men and a woman remained unidentified although all three were confirmed to be from Hong Kong.
The relatives of the victims from three families spent nine hours visiting four Cairo hospitals where the bodies of all 19 crash victims are being stored.
They decided to postpone to today a trip they had planned to perform rituals in Luxor.
Forensic pathologist Dr Lai Sai-chak, one of 16 government officers sent to Cairo to assist the relatives, said some bodies could not be identified visually as their faces were disfigured. "This could be due to the fall from height," he said, referring to the stricken balloon's 300-metre plunge.
Psychologist Rosalie Lo Shuk-yee, sent to Cairo by the Hospital Authority, said the relatives were calm during the identification process.
Meanwhile, Spanish balloon maker Ultramagic, which made the crashed balloon, offered condolences to the victims and their families. But it said balloons were still safe, with over 100,000 flights a year and very few accidents.
"When an accident unfortunately happens, we are all very sad and what we can do is to improve on all sides to reduce the possibility of it happening again," it said. The company said it had been told by a trustworthy source at the scene that the fire that caused the fatal crash was sparked by a gas leak from a hose broken by a rope that was wrapped around it. The rope was dropped to the ground and the hose began to leak when the ground crew pulled it.
"The gas escaping then started to burn and the balloon pilot had some fire in his face and he and another passenger jumped out of the basket," the firm said.