Relatives of six Hongkongers who perished in a hot-air balloon disaster in Egypt three years ago are demanding more than HK$10.6 million from a travel agency that organised the fatal flight, the Post has learned. Details emerged last Tuesday as six estate administrators argued in a statement of claim that Kuoni Travel (China) Limited “failed to quality assure the hot air balloon riding services provided is of reasonable skill and care”. The High Court document detailed a personal injury claim first filed in June last year. Since then, bereaved families have found out more about the balloon crash from the Coroner’s Court. On February 26, 2013, 19 people were killed when a hot air balloon cruising the skies over the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt suddenly caught fire and plunged into sugar cane fields. Among them were nine Hongkongers, including the six named in the current claim: Ho Oi-hing, Ho Oi-ying, Ho Oi-ming, Tang Yuk-ling, Siu Chi-man, and Eleni Kwan Pui-man. Coroner June Cheung Tin-ngan ruled in June that their deaths were accidental. The probable cause, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation, was a hose fuel leak. The court also heard that the hose in question had clocked a lot of flight time since it was made in 2005, and it may have carried defects that went undetected because the balloon captain did not complete pre-departure checks. Kuoni had stipulated in its liability clauses, cited in the court document, that it will not be held responsible for any injuries or death arising from any incident such as an accident during the tour’s entertainment programme, as it is merely an agent for the services of air companies and other travel institutions. Participants were also told in their tour booking form that negotiations for compensation should be directly dealt with the institutions which owned, managed or operated the relevant transport or entertainment programme. But lawyers for the relatives argued under the Control of Exemption Clauses Ordinance that such clauses carry no legal effect, because negligence was involved. The lawyers said Kuoni was the supplier of the balloon ride because all contractual documents carried company letterheads without any reference to the engaged third parties. It was Kuoni who had arranged the itinerary and its tour guide had pocketed US$70 per every US$190 ride, they said. As such, they argued Kuoni had an implied term of contract or duty to ensure its customers’ reasonable safety. This was breached because the inspection, maintenance and piloting of the balloon fell foul of reasonable skill and care. Alternatively, they said Kuoni also breached an implied term in law that it would use reasonable skill and care in selection of service providers. The next hearing is scheduled for December 19. Counsel Foster Yim, who has been assisting the families, said they are expecting to hear a reply from Kuoni by the end of October. Kuoni had previously applied to dismiss the case but was rejected by High Court in January.