Six of 19 hot air balloon victims identified: Egypt forensics chief

Ahram Online, Thursday 28 Feb 2013

Forensics authorities say six of 19 foreign nationals killed in Egypt's worst-ever hot air balloon disaster on Tuesday have been identified by respective embassy representatives

hot air balloon
In this image taken from amateur video provided by Al-Jazeera, the hot air balloon explodes over Luxor on Tuesday (Photo: AP)

The bodies of six of the 19 tourists who died on Tuesday in a hot air balloon crash in the Upper Egyptian city of Luxor have been identified, according to Egypt's forensic chief Ihsan Kameel Georgie.

Following the accident, the bodies of the victims were transported from Luxor to several different hospitals in Cairo. Victims included foreign nationals from the UK, France, Belgium, Hungary and Japan, along with nine tourists from Hong Kong.

The bodies have been identified by representatives of the British, French, Japanese and Hungarian embassies. According to Georgie, embassy officials were asked to bring photos with which to identify them.

The forensics chief added that DNA tests would be conducted on the bodies that could not be identified by photographs. DNA samples, he explained, would be taken from victims' relatives and checked against those taken from the bodies.

Georgie added that preliminary investigations had revealed that most of the victims had died from burns or from the long fall from the hot-air balloon.

The balloon exploded at dawn on Tuesday as the pilot attempted to land it following the discovery of a leaky gas cylinder. The crash left only two survivors: Michael Rennie, a Briton, and the pilot, both of whom jumped out of the balloon in an effort to escape the inferno.

Egyptian Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdallah has since ordered an investigation into the incident. The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, meanwhile, has drawn up a committee to determine the cause of the disaster.

The last hot air balloon accident in Luxor, which left 16 people injured in 2009, led to a six-month moratorium on all hot air balloon activity until additional safety measures had been put in place.

Egypt witnessed other hot air balloon accidents in 2007 and 2008, but neither of these led to any deaths.

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