Three Britons are among 19 tourists to die after a hot air balloon crash near the Egyptian city of Luxor. Another British tourist is still in hospital after the fatal sunrise flight.

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The balloon is believed to have caught fire and exploded, before falling 1,000 ft to a plantation (see above).

Tour operator Thomas Cook said that two Britons were killed in the crash, while another died later in hospital just after 1pm, bringing the total death toll to 19.

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

More than 20 people were in the balloon when it exploded, with casualties believed to be from France, Japan and Hong Kong, as well as Britain, according to Egyptian state news agency MENA - which cited a security source.

It was a huge bang. It was a frightening bang, even though it was several kilometres away from the hotel - Konny Matthews, hotel worker

Two of those involved were named locally as husband and wife Michael, 49, and Yvonne Rennie, of Perth, Scotland.

Next-door neighbour Linda Kettles said: "They were very, very nice people who kept themselves to themselves.

Two Britons are reportedly among 18 tourists to die in a hot air balloon crash near the Egyptian city of Luxor. (G)

"They've gone on holiday to enjoy themselves. They only get the weekends together and any break together is good for them. They were really looking forward to getting away."

Witnesses described how they had seen tourists jumping from the balloon after it exploded in the air before crashing into fields. Bodies of the dead were scattered across the fields around the remnants of the balloon.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The next of kin have been informed and our thoughts are with them and their families at this difficult time. We are providing them with consular assistance. We can also confirm that one other British National was involved and is in a stable condition."

Konny Matthews, assistant manager of Luxor's Al Moudira hotel, said she heard a boom around 7am (5am GMT). "It was a huge bang. It was a frightening bang, even though it was several kilometres away from the hotel," she said by phone. "Some of my employees said that their homes were shaking."

Thomas Cook has around 150 clients in the Luxor area at present. The company said in a statement: "We are working closely with the Foreign Office and the authorities in Egypt and we can confirm that two of our guests are in local hospitals, but tragically two of our guests have died in the hot air balloon incident in Luxor, Egypt this morning."

The company said it was working with local officials and a full investigation would be taking taking place. In the meantime, it has suspended sales of hot air balloon rides in Egypt.

18 tourists have died in a hot air balloon crash near the Egyptian city of Luxor (picture: R)

Photo via Newspoint

Mahmoud Mohamed Salem, who was at the scene of the balloon crash in Luxor, Egypt, was at the scene of the crash.

"The plantation workers that you see in the photographs (above) saw the hot-air balloon exploding and people jumping out of the basket before it plunged to the ground," he told France 24.

Previous crash

Hot air balloons, which usually fly at sunrise over the Karnak and Luxor temples and the Valley of the Kings, are popular with tourists.

In 2009, early morning hot air balloon flights in the area were suspended for six months following a crash in which 16 people were hurt. The 2009 crash was believed to have taken place when the balloon hit a mobile phone transmission tower.

During the six month hiatus, safety precautions were tightened up including all 42 pilots who operate from eight companies that provide flights being given extra training.

The amount of balloon flights allowed at one time was also reduced, as previously 50 balloons could occupy the same air space.

Thomas Cook UK has opened a hot line for concerned relatives who have guests in resort - 0800 107 5638.

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