February 26, 2013

18 foreign tourists plummet to their deaths as a hot air balloon explodes over the ancient Egyptian city of Luxor.

Terrible. Apparently, there was a gust of wind and the gas pipe broke. This attention-grabbing incident is an occasion for looking at the more general question of traveling to Egypt. The attractions are obvious, but the downside is so bad:
Tourism revenues in Egypt dropped 30 percent to $8.8 billion in 2011, following the uprising in January and February. Government officials reported a slight resurgence in those numbers in 2012....

Across the country, anger at Egypt’s newly elected Islamist government and its failure to bring economic and political stability to the country has fueled a rising tide of violent protests and clashes, which further threaten the tourism sector. 
So here's a country where people who are supposedly upset about instability take to the streets and make things even more unstable. Noted. I would never go there. But it's not just the violent protests and the occasional popping balloon:
Fatal road and train accidents are common in Egypt, due to badly maintained infrastructure and poor law enforcement....

[And] an increase in sexual harassment and assault on Egypt’s streets has added to the fears of women travelers.
Terrible. Why does anyone go there? But they do. And they let some local company send them up a thousand feet in the air in a balloon.

58 comments:

FleetUSA said...

I've been there many times, BUT not lately. I feel to go to many of these countries will just set you up as a TARGET and certainly ruin your vacation. And even more so if you stray off the beaten path as some adventuresome like.

The Drill SGT said...

sell short on Egypt. The country is going to implode. Unfortunately, they are likely to start a war before they do. (external enemy distraction gimmick)

Nonapod said...

The chances of me being kidnapped in a country are inversely proportional to my desire to visit it.

Tim said...

No doubt this is all Israel's fault.

And George Bush's too.

Oh, and don't forget Western Imperialism - can't forget that!

Radical Islamists and multi-century Arab dysfunction?

Nope. No culpability there. None at all.

Shanna said...

Why does anyone go there?

Because Egypt has amazing things that you can see no where else? Obviously. I would love to go there someday, but it wouldn't be worth it to me in this climate.

Terrible accident. I've not heard of this happening before with a hot air balloon.

rhhardin said...

Maybe if they annex Mecca they can get some tourism back.

Shouting Thomas said...

Cruises terrify you. You must stay home because the world outside your door is dangerous.

Tossing out religious and social tradition... ah, why not? What could possibly go wrong?

St. George said...

I used to live in Egypt.

People there are incredibly friendly.

Please don't judge an entire nation by one accident or some crimes.

That country is facing a very severe trial. Massive overpopulation. Brutal poverty.

The government has been unable to feed its population without massive U.S. government subsidies since the 1970s.

It's going to get worse there before it gets better.

Brian said...

I am deeply skeptical of the "hot air balloon accidentally explodes" story. With what frequency does this happen? How does it compare to the frequency of explosions with ... other ... causes in the Middle East?

Virgil Hilts said...

People have a false sense of Egypt somehow being modern/civilized. Per the UN and others, about 90 percent of Egyptian females between 15-49 have undergone female genital mutilation. The practice has declined recently but still over 50% of young Egyptican girls are mutilated. As Paul Havey said -- "It is not one world"

Colonel Angus said...

Across the country, anger at Egypt’s newly elected Islamist government and its failure to bring economic and political stability to the country has fueled a rising tide of violent protests and clashes, which further threaten the tourism sector.

I can't believe no one saw this coming.

Craig said...

A golf buddy of mine plans to move there in May to join another golf buddy who moved there two years ago. Good thing my wife is retiring or I'd probably be going there too.

Countersnark said...

I went in '97 and enjoyed it tremendously. Twenty-four hours after visiting the Temple of Hatshepsut this massacre took place:

Luxor Massacre

We left the country the next day. Don't need to go back.

Colonel Angus said...

Per the UN and others, about 90 percent of Egyptian females between 15-49 have undergone female genital mutilation. The practice has declined recently but still over 50% of young Egyptican girls are mutilated.

A good example of why I just walk away when someone extols the virtues of multiculturalism.

Larry J said...

Terrible accident. I've not heard of this happening before with a hot air balloon.

Unfortunately, I have. Just last year, there was an accident in New Zealand that killed 11 people. In 1989, a balloon accident in Australia killed 13 people. Four others were killed last August in Slovenia.

Any search for hot air balloon accidents will return a lot of hits.

jimbino said...

The worst thing is not the risk or disaster. It is the fact that those who are injured climbing Everest or visiting Egyptian treasures are fully insured by Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare, none of which pay for treatment in Nepal or Egypt.

Folks who take great risks, whether outdoors or in founding new enterprises, can's affordably insure against loss. Those armchair adventurers and other risk-averse folks can indeed afford to insure themselves.

All this puts the lie to insurance as a form of risk management. It is nothing more than a religion. WWJD?

EDH said...

The victims of a hot air balloon crash in the Serengeti cannot sue the Tanzanian balloon company in U.S. courts, a federal judge ruled.

In 2010, Harvey Marron and Grace Weinberg bought a safari trip to Tanzania from a Massachusetts travel agent, including tickets for a hot air balloon ride. The agent did not tell them that a balloon had previously crashed due to high winds.

On the day of their flight, it was windy at the launch site, and an earlier balloon ride was canceled. However, Marron and Weinberg were not informed about the cancellation or of the risk of flying under windy conditions.

As their balloon attempted to descend, the wind blew the balloon into a tree, killing Marron and another passenger. Weinberg broke her arm, which was trapped in the balloon's rigging and dragged across the ground. She waited for hours alongside Marron's body for rescue in the remote area.

Weinberg and Marron's estate sought punitive damages from the Massachusetts travel agency, Overseas Adventures, and Serengeti Balloon Safaris on strict liability and negligence claims.

However, U.S. District Judge William Young ruled that the pair could not sue the Tanzanian balloon company in a U.S. court and granted Serengeti's motion to dismiss.

"A hot air balloon tour within the country of Tanzania that was accidentally swept by wind did not include an 'agreed stopping place within the territory of another State' and is therefore not covered by the Montreal Convention," the treaty establishing rules for victims of air crashes, Young said.

"It seems unfair that the Serengeti defendants can reap the benefits of obtaining American business and not be subject to suit in our country. It is perhaps unfortunate that recent jurisprudence appears to 'turn the clock back to the days before modern long-arm statutes when a [business], to avoid being hailed into court where a user is injured, need only Pilate-like wash its hands of a product by having [agents] market it,' and that, in many circumstances, American consumers 'may now have to litigate in distant fora - or abandon their claims altogether,' but this Court must follow the law as authoritatively declared," Young continued, quoting legal criticism.

The court permitted the plaintiffs' claims against Overseas Adventure, which booked the tickets for the couple, to proceed to the next stage of litigation."This memorandum and order demonstrates an obvious but lamentable truth - that where personal jurisdiction is limited, the parties most culpable may escape liability, leaving the burden of recovery on defendants close to home - even when they are undoubtedly less culpable," Young concluded.


http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/09/26/50655.htm

bpm4532 said...

The harassment of women is ever present, particularly if you are a blond westerner, but much of the unrest we've seen on the news is very localized to the viewfinder of the news cameras. Much of Cairo is as it's always been. Declining to be sure, though.

Hagar said...

Hot air balloons do not explode, but propane tanks certainly do.

Craig said...

The trick is getting disasters to comply with insurer's disclaimers.

Tank said...

I'm sure there are interesting things to see and experience there, but, as a Jewish person, although not religious, this is on my list of places too risky to go there, lots of other places to go that don't have these issues.

If the drift of things does not change, soon much of Europe will have these same issues.

Chuck Currie said...

"The government has been unable to feed its population without massive U.S. government subsidies since the 1970s."

I love that sentence. The "government" has been unable...

That is the only outcome socialism, fascism, communism provides...yet the starry eyed dreamers continue down that path.

Back on subject...my condolences to the families of those who perished.

Cheers

traditionalguy said...

Egypt had been a major US military base and ally in full cooperation with the USA over 40 years...and then along came pro Muslim Obama and they are our enemy, Iran's ally and a fierce hater of the terrible Jews that have dared to remain unmurdered.

They do have an educated and civilized minority of ethnic Egyptian Christians that for 1400 years have done the work that the Arab conquerors were too stupid and lazy to do. So the insane Muslims want them killed now for fun.

Too bad they have run out of our money to buy food just as food prices double for Green Energy scams and the old corn makes ethanol scam to save us from middle east oil.

Obama and gang clearly needs this crisis. It is a lead from behind move that ends in the UN coming into pick up the pieces plan.

Remember rule #1 of middle eastern politics: It is always about who will rule in the City of Jerusalem.

Mary said...

Terrible. Why does anyone go there?
---------
international work.

but the big companies take care of their employees, planning the trip and let the occasional touristy 'fun' exercise be planned/attended by a local manager in that country, who definitely is thinking of safety and showing off his region's best...

building business, across the globe. you win, we win.

gadfly said...

St George said . . .

The government has been unable to feed its population without massive U.S. government subsidies since the 1970s.

Egypt won't feed its population but will spend $3.2 billion on F-16s. Should we expect more from the Muslim Brotherhood?

Titus said...

I went to Cairo 15 years ago and loved it.


I would never go today.

Shanna said...

Twenty-four hours after visiting the Temple of Hatshepsut this massacre took place:

Luxor Massacre


Wow.

Ann Althouse said...

"Any search for hot air balloon accidents will return a lot of hits."

I think what hadn't been heard of before was the gas pipe getting dislodged.

You've got open flame there. You can't have the gas pipe getting dislodged by a mere gust of wind. That's insane.

I don't really know how the company is able to make that statement.

Everyone who was up there died. Maybe there was time for communication. It was more of a popping and plummeting than an incineration.

But if the snapping of the pipe is the sort of thing one can presume must have happened, then the design is too dangerous to rely on.

The Drill SGT said...

Brian said...
I am deeply skeptical of the "hot air balloon accidentally explodes"


I remember an accident a few years ago in California.

During take-off the burner was set too high and a piece of nylon parachute cord caught and served as a fuse igniting the main balloon nylon. The Balloon at that point was maybe 40 feet up. Several passengers had the foresight to jump at 30-50 ft up. Broken legs and a hip as I recall. They were lucky. The rest went up with the burning balloon to about 200 feet and died, either in the flames or the 200 ft fall when the balloon lost lift.

The Drill SGT said...

Ann Althouse said...
You've got open flame there. You can't have the gas pipe getting dislodged by a mere gust of wind. That's insane.


I suspect this set of facts.

1. multiple propane tanks, tied to the balloon frame instead of in a rigid frame. metal tubing bridging the tanks, linking them.
2. balloon tips, gear shifts, and tanks bump, stressing the tubing, which shears.
3. uncontained gas shoots up into the area where the burner is running. flame runs back down the the tanks in the basket.
4. things get real exciting for 10 seconds.

edutcher said...

Apparently, once the Moslem Brotherhood is in power, they go from massacring tourists to just attacking them.

And I agree with Drill.

I'd love to visit that part of the world; don't ask me why, but I've been interested in Egyptology since I was a very little boy and one of my Mom's great dreams was to be able to visit the Holy Land, but, until somebody starts treating the GWOT the way the Limeys did the Sepoy Mutiny, no way would I go there.

Ann Althouse said...

Any search for hot air balloon accidents will return a lot of hits.

I think what hadn't been heard of before was the gas pipe getting dislodged.

You've got open flame there. You can't have the gas pipe getting dislodged by a mere gust of wind. That's insane.

I don't really know how the company is able to make that statement.


You don't know if the equipment was in good repair or not and, this is a hot air balloon, not the Hindenburg.

Everyone who was up there died. Maybe there was time for communication. It was more of a popping and plummeting than an incineration.

Almost of a certainty.

Craig said...

James Franco has the title roll in Oz The Great And Powerful. Can't wait to see it. A sure bet for best actor.

Jason said...

Egypt has become a shithole. But it is still Egypt. It's an amazing place.

Anthony said...

I've been going over there since 1988 to do archaeology and most of what is mentioned -- dangerous traffic, women getting harassed, etc. -- is just par for the course in vast swaths of the non-western world. Probably the 1990s was the most dangerous for tourists because the Muslim Brotherhood at that point was specifically targeting them (as the Deir el-Bahari massacre attests). Was just back last Fall and, as bpm4532 notes, most of the junk you see on TV takes place in very localized sections of Cairo and is often staged for effect. Often you'll see a small handful of professional protesters gathered around a TV camera, with said camera almost on the ground pointing upwards to make the "crowd" look even bigger and scarier.

I've never felt threatened while over there and the most dangerous aspects of the country remain road accidents and food poisoning. The people are generally very friendly and welcoming once you get out of the tourist areas.

It's definitely worthwhile going at least once. The size of the pyramids takes one's breath away and the temples of Luxor and Karnak are a magnificent testimony to a civilization that was already three thousand years old when Jesus was born. Plus there's always the Nile, it's really quite spectacular in places, especially when you realize its constancy among all the changes that have taken place along its shores.

If you can manage to avoid the hawkers and sellers at some of these places -- easy enough if you know where to go -- it can be a wonderful place to contemplate the nature of civilization.

John Burgess said...

I lived in Egypt and mostly enjoyed it. Sure, there were some problems with noise and dirt, but much of the world has those problems.

Infrastructure can be less than optimal, starting with traffic, but that, too, isn't all that rare.

What no other place has is better than 4,000 years of history, available to anyone who cares to see it. That's worth a certain amount of hassle for lots of people.

If Egyptian (and Coptic and Jewish) art doesn't float your boat, then definitely avoid it.

Ralph Hyatt said...

My wife and I visited briefly (two days) in 2009 as part of a Med cruise. Saw some amazing things including the Pyramids. We are glad we went, but would not choose to go back.

The biggest negatives were the hawkers trying to to sell us junk and/or trying to get us to give them tips for taking pictures of us with the Pyramids in the background and the garbage you see everywhere.

National Geographic makes it look like the Giza plateau look pristine, but it is covered in camel and horse dung, con men, and garbage.

The desert is full of garbage as well. We were bussed on the "desert highway" from Alexandria to Cairo and the median and desert bordering the highway was strewn with litter. It looked like dumping trash in the desert was routine.

Finally, I noticed that the bus used to transport us to sites of interest had two Egyptian men on it that wore cheap suits, always exited the bus first, and boarded it last. One of them allowed their jacket to hang open a bit too much, affording me a glimpse of the compact machine gun it was concealing.

Petunia said...

The Guardian is reporting that the two survivors jumped almost immediately when the flames broke out and they were only about ten feet or so from the ground. The balloon then rose higher and those who jumped or fell after that were too far off the ground to survive.

One of the two who jumped first was the pilot.

Paul said...

Yea in a country full of radicals they go over there and let the radicals hold their lives in their hands.

And they wonder why they die....

What makes anyone here really think it was a 'accident'?

Methadras said...

You also have to watch out for those evil and devious terrorists showing up at Egyptian pyramids to machine gun American tourists down too.

Oclarki said...

What a fucking depressing country. Your civilization peaked 4000 years ago. If I was an Egyptian I'd want those pyramids torn down for remininding me every day that I lived in a backwards shithole with no hope of ever being great.

It's probably how people living in America will feel in a few hundred more years.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I'd consider going to Egypt if I could meet Rachel Weisz.

SteveR said...

One reason to go now is the likely possibility that the islamists will destroy the Pyramids, etc.

Larry J said...

Paul said...
Yea in a country full of radicals they go over there and let the radicals hold their lives in their hands.

And they wonder why they die....

What makes anyone here really think it was a 'accident'?


Because the same kind of accident has happened in other places and there's no evidence (yet) of it being anything but an accident.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Q: What do you call the anus of a creature half man and half lion?

A: A sphynxter.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Q: Why wouldn't anyone go near the King of Egypt's dog?

A: It was Pharaoh-cious.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Q: Hey mac, how far to the river?

A: Oh, about a Nile.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Q: Daddy, can I play outside?

A: Go ask your mummy.

Nomennovum said...

Look, going to third world toilets is exciting because it's a bit dangerous, but to go to a third world toilet and then go high into the air in a balloon maintained and manned by third world toilet dwellers, as if you're taking a family vacay in Disney is just stupid on stilts.

John Casey said...

I went there in 2004, and took a balloon trip from that very same spot on February 24, 2004, nine years ago almost to the day. The pilot was a man from Switzerland who was about 35 years old, and seemed very knowledgeable and quite capable. The ride was thrilling and the views absolutely breathtaking. I wouldn't hesitate to do it again. These things are catastrophic when you're involved, but what deadly accident isn't for the people involved? There are millions of tourist that go to Egypt every year, and go home just fine, and with memories that will last a lifetime. I don't Egypt is going to be everyone's cup of tea, but it is a fascinating trip, I'll say that much.

John Casey said...

I took a balloon ride from that very same spot on February 24 2004, nine years ago almost to the day. The ride was fantastic, and the views were breathtaking. I wouldn't hesitate for moment to do it again. Accidents like that are so rare. Obviously that is no consolation for the people that died, but again, it's so rare. The pilots are all very professional, and very knowledgeable. It was just an unfortunate accident. As for traveling to Egypt, millions still go every year, and go home just fine. It wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but if you have a chance to go some day, you might want to consider taking it.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

It's much too early to know for certain what happened. If Don Piccard makes a statement you can be pretty sure it is solid, but I haven't seen anything from him yet.

I've spent a fair bit of time in and around hot air balloons (having been good friends with a commercial LTA pilot) and have only a few inchoate opinions to share:

a) Most "pipes" in a balloon are flexible rubber tubing, not metal.
b) Propane tanks not feeding the burner are closed with a valve you open only when the previous tank is empty. Or *should* be.
c) A poorly-secured tank can break free in turbulence and might well sever the line. Or *not* break free but cause a leak. Propane, being heavier than air could fill the gondola and explode.
d) Balloons have a large nylon flap at the top for dumping hot air. In an emergency you can dump a lot and descend in a hurry. Provided the pilot is still on board.
e) Balloons are tremendously buoyancy-dependent and buoyancy is affected significantly by the weight on board. People jumping off will cause the balloon to rise faster and farther, dooming the rest.

The Luxor accident was *not* at launch, so if anyone jumped off at 10 feet above the ground the craft was already on the way down and the jumpers wished to avoid being trapped under thousands of square feet of burning, melting nylon.

traditionalguy said...

One last thought on the 6,000 year old river runs through it Egyptian civilization. They have mastered stuffed grape leaves and belly dancing. They also are good at soccer and wrestling.

Quayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quayle said...

Somewhere in Egypt is a blog in Arabic where the hostess is discussing the question of why would anyone let their kids attend a grade school in America, or why would anyone ever ride the subway trains in New York, or why would anyone live in Texas, Oklahoma or Kansas in tornado alley.

Amartel said...

Never get out of the boat.
(Hi, Tiger!)
Absolutely goddam right. Unless you're going all the way.

Clyde said...

Tragic accident, says unnamed official. On the other hand, in a culture that likes to blow up their enemies with car bombs, it's perfectly believable that some Islamist could have blown it up via remote control. You couldn't pay me to vacation in Egypt or any other Muslim country, because there are too many people there who hate Westerners and want to kill them. No thanks.

T J Sawyer said...

I write this from Cairo where we have spent most of the last ten winters.

I don't know of a friendlier people than the Egyptians. We stopped at the bakery last week and I didn't have anything smaller than a fifty pound note for my eight pound purchase. (8 EGP = $1.15) "You can bring it next time," said the baker as he handed me the package of two freshly baked croissants and a pound of small date-filled rolls.

This is a place where the doorman at your hotel might invite you to dinner at his home and, if you can overcome irrational fear of strangers and differences, you will make a friend for life.

That's the magic.

The downside, of course, is the chaos of drivers without headlights going the wrong way on a road to save time, etc. On a scale that ranges from "risk-averse" to "fool-hardy," Americans and Egyptians are so far apart that the differences will boggle your mind.

In another dimension, no Egyptian could imagine a government that would regulate what could be grown or placed in their front yard.

But, if you would like to experience the best of humanity without the constraints and structure of "modern civilization," I strongly recommend that you head for Egypt, get off the beaten path and get acquainted!

Everyday life here is recorded at:
http://www.sawyertravel.blogspot.com

Oh, and if you were going to drop me at a random spot in a large city this evening? I'll take Cairo over Chicago any time.

Larry J said...

According to this report, the balloon hit a power line. That's never a good thing.