ACCIDENT

Chinese tourist dies in balloon fall in Cappadocia, Turkey

Craft hit by sudden gust while landing in tourist region in central Turkey

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 December, 2014, 11:29pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 December, 2014, 7:37am

A Chinese tourist has died after falling from a hot-air balloon in Turkey when a strong gust of wind caught the craft as it came in to land yesterday.

The Chinese national, who was named in local media as Tang Yi, was taking photographs in the sightseeing area of Cappadocia in central Turkey. He was reportedly standing up as the craft lurched in the high wind.

"Normally the pilot tells everybody to sit down. This person hadn't sat down, and was taking photographs and fell out of the basket," Murat Ned, a manager of Hot Air Balloon Cappadocia - a separate tour operator that was not involved in the accident - told the Post. The balloon then landed on the man, Ned said.

On take-off, pilots brief passengers to sit down as balloons come in to land to ensure their safety, added Ned, whose friend had been at the scene, helping the balloon to land.

Nine other tourists were hurt by the balloon's sudden landing, Reuters reported, including a Malaysian tourist who was said to be in a serious condition.

The others, reportedly a mixture of Chinese and Malaysian nationals, received hospital treatment for broken bones.

The company that runs the tours operates balloons which can carry up to 20 people at a time, said Ned, whose company was also flying at the time and did not experience any issues with the weather.

Safety regulations mean flights are given clearance to take off 10 to 15 minutes before departure to ensure the correct weather conditions. Tours are cancelled in bad weather.

Some 3,000 people a day take in the views of Cappadocia's "fairy chimneys" - as the tall, thin rock formations are known - from hot-air balloons.

Balloon tours take off from a series of points across the 300 sq km area and there are usually two tours, lasting up to one hour, operating at the same time, Ned explained.

But tours at the Unesco world heritage site have come under scrutiny for their safety in recent years.

Three Brazilian tourists were killed when two hot-air balloons collided in the tourist destination in May 2013, with a further 22 tourists injured. An accident in 2009 killed a British tourist and injured nine others.

A growing number of tour operators have opened in the area, meaning companies are now restricted to flying about half of their fleet at once, according to the balloon tour manager.

In June 2013, nine Hong Kong tourists were killed when a hot-air balloon exploded in Egypt. A criminal investigation ruled the explosion was caused by a leak in a gas pipe that had been fitted by an unqualified worker.