‘No sign of criminal activity’ in Egypt balloon accident

Updated 28 February 2013
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‘No sign of criminal activity’ in Egypt balloon accident

LUXOR, Egypt: An initial probe into a hot air balloon crash that killed up to 19 tourists in Egypt has ruled out any criminal activity as a cause of the accident, state media said yesterday.
“Investigations so far by the general prosecution show no suspicion of criminal activity,” the official MENA news agency reported, citing the preliminary findings of the investigation.
Four investigating teams were formed after Prime Minister Hisham Qandil ordered a probe into Tuesday’s balloon crash in the ancient temple city of Luxor that killed tourists from Hong Kong, Japan, Britain, France and Hungary.
Luxor Governor Saad Ezzat and a delegation of Egyptian officials, as well as tourism industry professionals, visited the scene of the crash where they placed three bouquets of white flowers before observing a minute’s silence.
Investigators have inspected the area in the dense sugar cane fields of Luxor, spoke to witnesses and residents and reviewed the operating company’s paperwork and licenses.
According to the investigating teams, the company that operates the balloon rides had passed a routine inspection by the Civil Aviation Ministry on Feb. 13-15.
“The minister of aviation checked the documents of the company operating the balloon. He found everything is okay. The technical requirements were okay,” Governor Ezzat told reporters at the crash site.
Civil Aviation Minister Wael Al-Maadawi said, meanwhile, that he had agreed to a request by British authorities to attend the probe.
“Things are very fresh at the moment. As the governor said, the investigations are ongoing, but if there is anything we could do, we will be happy to do so,” British Consul John Hamilton told AFP from Luxor.
“Our main concern at this time is with the people who suffered such horrific accident and I extend our deepest condolences to their families,” he said.
The balloon had been floating over the west bank of Luxor, one of Egypt’s most renowned archaeological sites and home to the famous Valley of the Kings and the grand Temple of Hatshepsut, when it exploded.

A video shot by a passenger on another flight appears to show smoke pouring from the balloon’s basket for some time before the balloon itself collapses, leaving the basket full of tourists to freefall to earth.
The pilot and one tourist survived by jumping out of the basket at some point before it hit the ground, said an employee of Sky Cruise. Both were taken to hospital.


Gaza officials: 20 Palestinians wounded at Israeli border

Updated 19 min 54 sec ago
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Gaza officials: 20 Palestinians wounded at Israeli border

  • Gaza’s Health Ministry says 20 Palestinians have been wounded by Israeli fire along the border fence.
  • A few thousand Palestinians attended Friday’s rally near the border with a few dozen venturing toward the fence.

GAZA CITY: Gaza’s Health Ministry says 20 Palestinians have been wounded by Israeli fire along the border fence.
A few thousand Palestinians attended Friday’s rally near the border with a few dozen venturing toward the fence.
Some launched flaming kites at Israel. The devices have destroyed forests and crops and killed animals in recent weeks in Israel.
The militant group Hamas that rules Gaza has led three months of protests that turned violent. Over 120 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire.
Israel says it is defending its border and nearby communities and accuses Hamas of using the protests as cover for attempts to breach the fence and carry out attacks.
Rallies are aimed in part at drawing attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.