Thursday, June 6, 2013

Egypt: Update--Hot-Air Balloon Crash in February Caused by Human Error

According to The South China Morning Post and my postings of February 26 and 27, an Egyptian accident report into the hot-air balloon crash in Luxor on February 26, that killed 19 tourists, including nine from Hong Kong, has blamed the accident on human error.

According to the government report, the crash was caused by a gas leak from a pipe installed by an unskilled worker. Unfortunately, the pilot and maintenance engineer did not verify that the connection was correct.

The hot-air balloon carrying 20 tourists and a pilot erupted in a fireball and plunged about 300 meters (984 feet) to the ground. Only the pilot and a British tourist who jumped to the ground survived.

Local prosecutors have arrested the pilot, Moman Mourad, and a balloon airport supervisor on charges of negligence and improper preparations for flight. 

COMMENT: We have seen a number of hot-air balloon crashes in recent months in a number of developing countries.

As most of our regular readers know, I suggest extreme caution to all foreign travelers who are inclined to engage in adventure tourism events in developing nations, largely because of deficient safety standards that are much different from those found in developed nations.

Tour agency Kuoni Travel, which arranged the 10-day trip to Egypt, declined to comment on the report.  A spokesman for the agency said it had been helping families of the victims and had offered a total of HK$200,000 (US$26,000) compassionate allowance for those Chinese citizens killed.

It should be noted that Kuoni Travel, is part of Kuoni Group, which founded in 1906 by entrepreneur Alfred Kuoni in Zurich, where it is based. In 2012, the Kuoni Group was named “World’s Leading Tour Operator” at the annual World Travel Awards for the thirteenth time in fifteen years.

According to The New York Times, those killed in the crash included nine Hong Kong residents, four Japanese, two Belgians, two British, and two French nationals. Additionally, four other foreign tourists remain missing.

It is noteworthy to point out that as in many developing countries, hot-air balloons are in their infancy in Egypt, but have become a major hit amongst tourists because of the panoramic aerial views in the Nile Valley.

Nevertheless, all tourists should keep in mind that the regulation of hot-air balloon is not anywhere close to what one would find in a developed country. 

In 2008 and 2009, hot-air balloons crashed into utility poles, injuring passengers, but no deaths were reported.

Needless to say, all travelers and tourists should use caution with all forms of transportation in Egypt, as accidents are a frequent occurrence.