Egypt officials have confirmed a deadly hot air balloon crash that killed 18 tourists today.
The tragedy occurred in the early morning hours on Tuesday when the balloon suffered a mid-air explosion. There were reportedly 21 passengers on-board when the blast occurred near the ancient town of Luxor. The event is thought to be the deadliest balloon crash on record.
According to Reuters, the hot air balloon was approximately 1,000 feet above the ground when an explosion occurred between its gas canister and burner.
The pilot and two passengers are said to have survived by jumping to the ground as the balloon exploded.
Government officials have indicated that the 18 passengers killed in the Egypt balloon crash included tourists from Hong Kong, Britain, France, and Japan. Several of the victims are reportedly still in the process of identification.
The New York Times writes that the deadly accident occurred at approximately 6:30 am. As the pilot was attempting to stabilize the balloon for landing in a nearby sugar cane field, a rip in the gas hose reportedly ignited the blast.
The pilot and two passengers reportedly managed to jump from the balloon before it sailed higher into the air and was consumed by flames.
Konny Matthews, assistant manager of Luxor’s Al Moudira hotel, told Reuters that the explosion could be heard and felt by nearby residents:
“It was a huge bang. It was a frightening bang, even though it was several kilometers away from the hotel. Some of my employees said that their homes were shaking.”
Following the explosion, the balloon reportedly fell to the ground on the west bank of the Nile river. The three survivors, including the pilot, are being treated at a local hospital.
Hot air balloon rides over Luxor’s ancient landmarks, ruins, and temples are a key tourism attraction for the country. There are rarely accidents relating to the popular tourist activity, and the few reported cases have only resulted in minor injuries.
Officials in Egypt are continuing to investigate the exact cause of the deadly hot air balloon crash that killed 18 tourists this morning.