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Hot air balloon death toll rises


A third Briton has died following the hot air balloon crash in Egypt yesterday.

Tour operator Thomas Cook had earlier announced two Britons had been killed and two more injured when the balloon plunged in flames to the ground in Luxor.

Shortly after 1pm yesterday, the company said one of the two injured Britons had since died.

This took the total death toll to 19.

Witnesses described seeing tourists jumping from the balloon after it exploded at about 1,000ft before crashing in fields.

Bodies of the dead were scattered across the fields around the remnants of the balloon.

The two Britons who initially survived were thought to have been in a critical condition when they were taken to hospital with the only other survivor – the Egyptian pilot.

Initially announcing the two British deaths, Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook UK and Europe chief executive, said: "What happened in Luxor this morning is a terrible tragedy and the thoughts of everyone in Thomas Cook are with our guests, their family and friends."

He said the company had a very experienced team in Luxor and that full support was being provided to the family and friends of those who had died.

Thomas Cook said it was working with local officials and a full investigation would be taking place.

"While this investigation is under way, Thomas Cook UK has temporarily suspended sales of hot air balloon rides in Egypt," the company said.

Thomas Cook UK has opened a hotline for concerned relatives who have guests in resort. Call 0800 107 5638.

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.

The balloon came down in sugar cane fields.

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

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