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Egypt balloon crash probe rules out criminal activity

Egypt balloon crash probe rules out criminal activity

Cairo: Egypt Wednesday ruled out any "criminal activity" in the tragic hot air balloon crash near Luxor in which 19 people, mostly Asian and European tourists, were killed.

"Initial results of the investigations conducted by Luxor Public Prosecution asserted that there were no criminal suspicions in the crash and the fall of the tourist hot air balloon in South Luxor Tuesday," the state-run MENA news agency said.

The balloon was at 1,000 ft (300 metres) when it caught fire and exploded, plunging onto sugarcane fields west of Luxor Tuesday.

Passengers in the balloon included 19 foreign tourists, from Hong Kong, France, Japan and Britain. An Egyptian pilot and another Egyptian were also on board.

The probes are being held under Luxor and Qena Attorney General Counselor Mohammad Fahmi. Four teams of investigators have been formed to inspect the scene of the balloon crash and listen to witnesses in the surrounding area as well as inspect the corpses of the victims.

A technical committee of the aviation department was also formed to inspect the take-off and fall locations of the balloon and review the licenses of Sky Cruise Company which operates the balloon tours.

The committee has also examined the balloon debris to know the reasons behind it catching of fire and falling of the balloon.

Luxor Prosecution has ordered the transfer of the 19 bodies from Luxor International Hospital morgue to Cairo to undergo DNA tests.

Civil Aviation Minister Wael al-Maadawi also ruled out the possibility of criminal activity behind the crash.

He said yesterday that his ministry agreed to a request by the British authorities to attend the ongoing probe into the hot air balloon crash.

The minister said bodies of victims were carried by a military aircraft to Cairo to hand them over to their embassies.

A committee from the Civil Aviation Ministry has inspected the air balloon tour operator "Sky Cruise" on February 13, 14 and 15, Maadawi said, adding that the company passed the inspection.

There are only 10 companies operating balloon flights in Egypt, he said, making it clear that they are all subjected to routine inspection.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry in Luxor moved the two wounded persons in the crash to Cairo.

The ministry said it transferred the two wounded from Luxor's International Hospital to Nasir Institute in Cairo because of the seriousness of their conditions. The governor of Luxor Ezzat Saad had banned all hot-air balloon flights after the tragedy.


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