Two killed as hot air balloon crashes in UAE

25th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

A hot air balloon with 14 people aboard crashed in a desert area east of Abu Dhabi on Sunday, killing a French person and an Indian national, the operating tourist company said in a statement.

Several other people were injured, one seriously, in the early morning crash near Sweihan, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) east of the UAE capital.

The genders of the two dead have not yet been released.

"Two passengers, one French national and one Indian national, died in the accident and one ground crew staff member from Tanzania was injured," Dubai-based Balloon Adventures Emirates (BAE) said.

It said the staff member was in intensive care in hospital and that "several other passengers sustained minor injuries."

"The pilot and 13 passengers took off early on Sunday morning in light winds, however soon after takeoff the wind picked up significantly and the pilot decided to make an emergency landing," the statement said.

The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said that an investigation into the cause of the crash was under way.

BAE said that it has "suspended operations for the next few days pending the outcome of the investigation."

The French embassy released a statement saying that it has been "informed of the accident involving a French national."

"We are in contact with the relevant authorities in the UAE and in France. We are also in contact with the family to provide assistance."

Balloon Adventures said it has been operating in the UAE for "the past five years with no previous accidents."

Balloon expeditions are common in the UAE which in recent years has become a tourist destination, mainly as the emirate of Dubai developed itself into a regional leisure hub.

© 2010 AFP

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