LUXOR, Egypt (USA TODAY & WIRE REPORTS) - More than a dozen foreign tourists have been killed Tuesday as their hot air balloon crashed near the ancient Egyptian city of Luxor, a security official in Egypt told the Associated Press.
The casualties included French, British, Chinese and Japanese nationals. No Americans are thought to be involved.
CNN reported that passengers in the balloon included 19 foreign tourists: nine from Hong Kong; four from Japan; two from Belgium; two from Britain and two from France. CNN cited Luxor province Gov. Izzat Saad, who was speaking on Nile TV.
The AP said that 18 were killed. Egypt's health ministry told the BBC that 14 people have been killed.
"There were 20 passengers aboard. An explosion happened and 19 passengers died. One tourist and the pilot survived," Ahmed Aboud, a spokesman for companies that operate balloon flights in the area, told Reuters news agency.
The Egyptian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to the media, said there was a fire and an explosion and that the balloon then plunged from the sky and crashed into sugar cane fields west of Luxor on Tuesday. Luxor is about 320 miles south of Cairo.
Balloons fly near the launch site near Luxor in Egypt, shortly prior to an explosion that killed at least 18, most of them tourists, on Tuesday.(Photo: Christopher Michel via AP)
The site of the accident has seen accidents in the past. In 2009, 16 tourists were injured when their balloon stuck a cellphone transmission. A year earlier, seven tourists were injured in a similar crash.
In a statement following a hot air balloon accident last year in New Zealand that killed 11, Carl Holden, an air safety expert said, "People have been flying hot air balloons safely, since 1783 to be exact, long before the Wright Brother's first successful powered flight in 1903.
"The hot air balloon is the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology. Every year there are thousands of hot air balloon flights around the world without incident."
The Federal Aviation Administration regulates the use of hot air balloons in the USA. According to a preliminary search of the National Transportation Safety Board's aviation accident database, there have been 67 fatal incidents across America involving hot air balloons since 1964.
Egypt's tourism industry has been decimated since the 18-day uprising in 2011 against autocrat leader Hosni Mubarak and the political turmoil that followed and continues to this day.
Luxor's hotels are currently about 25% full in what is supposed to be the peak of the winter season.