Britons involved in balloon horror

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: The launch site near Luxor in Egypt prior to the accident (Christopher Michel/PA) The launch site near Luxor in Egypt prior to the accident (Christopher Michel/PA)

At least one Briton is among 18 tourists feared dead in a horrific hot air balloon crash in Egypt.

Two other Britons are believed to have survived after the balloon exploded and crashed in flames in a sugar cane field near Luxor. There were reports quoting local police as saying that a British male had been killed, while the two survivors were said to be in a critical condition.

The Foreign Office, UK travel organisation Abta and holiday companies specialising in Luxor were all trying to get more information about the crash.

Witnesses described hearing a loud explosion before seeing plumes of smoke as the balloon caught fire.

Christopher Michel described the carnage on Twitter, where he posted a series of photographs showing the balloons ahead of the flight. He said: "It was the balloon behind mine. I heard a loud explosion and saw smoke."

Mr Michel, who previously made a balloon excursion with an English pilot, said the Egyptian operation "didn't feel quite as professional" as that of his first voyage. The US photographer was taking aerial photographs at the time of the crash. He told the BBC: "We flew over the ancient ruins. Just before landing in the cornfields, I heard an explosion and saw smoke. I think it was the balloon behind mine. I wasn't sure what had happened at first. It was only when we landed we heard the full extent of what happened."

An AP reporter at the crash site said he saw eight bodies being put into body bags and taken away.

An Abta spokesman said: "We are aware that there have been a number of injuries and fatalities including British nationals following an incident involving a hot air balloon trip in Luxor, Egypt, operated by a local company, Skycruise. It is understood that at least 20 people were on board the flight, although it has not yet been confirmed how many of these are British nationals. We are working with our members, the Foreign Office and the Egyptian authorities to ascertain more details about the incident. We will issue further information once it becomes available."

Cherry Tohamy, an Egyptian living in Kuwait who was on holiday in Luxor, was in another balloon which was landing when she heard an explosion and saw flames from a balloon above. She told the BBC: "Our pilot told us that the balloon had hit a high pressure electrical cable and a cylinder on board exploded. People were jumping out of the balloon from about the height of a seven-storey building." She said ambulances were at the scene within 15 minutes.

Other victims are thought to have come from Hong Kong, Japan and France. Reports as to the exact number of Britons killed continued to vary, with various sources putting the death toll at one, others at two and some at three.

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