Luxor balloon survivor Linda Lea remembers ordeal

Linda Lea: "It brought back all the mayhem and horrific events of that day"

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A British woman who survived a balloon crash in Luxor four years ago said news of the latest deadly crash brought back gruesome and painful memories of her own ordeal.

Linda Lea, 67, a retired policewoman from Stoke-on-Trent, endured four months of hospital treatment after a 2009 crash that left her with 26 broken bones.

She was driving with her daughter alongside her when she heard a radio report of Tuesday's crash.

"It brought back all the mayhem and the events of that day," Mrs Lea told the BBC. "It was quite upsetting."

Writing online during her recovery from injury she described her trip to Luxor, home to a vast array of ancient Egyptian temples and tombs, as "the dream of a lifetime being fulfilled".

Luxor

Map
  • Site of ancient city of Thebes
  • Temples of Karnak and Luxor in city itself
  • Royal tombs in Valley of the Kings and Queens lie across River Nile
  • Dawn hot air balloon rides popular way to see sites
  • Luxor has seen a drop in visitor numbers since the 2011 uprising

"It's the opportunity you've got to see the whole spectrum and the whole vista of the Valley of the Kings," she told the BBC as she digested news of another crash.

"If you're interested in Egyptian history it's a unique opportunity to do that."

Tales of near-misses, crashes and slack safety standards by Luxor balloon operators are easy to come across online.

For Mrs Lea, the tension began as soon as she made it to the launch site.

"When we arrived at the site it was all noise, it was people shouting, engines revving because of these lorries that were holding the balloons down.

"I was apprehensive straight away and in actual fact, I think, if it had been another minute later, I'd have been out of the basket. I was so nervous."

The balloon she was travelling in hit a mobile phone mast, ripping the balloon and causing an explosion that brought it crashing down. Fire also brought down the balloon in Tuesday's Luxor crash.

"These balloons are just too unstable. There is not enough training of staff. There were about 22 or 23 in my balloon when it crashed and maybe there was too many then and too many in today's accident," she said.

"I was actually looking at the balloon when it ripped and the fire came through."

"That was what made everything so real to me this morning, and so vivid in my mind," Mrs Lea told the BBC.

"Immediately I just thought of the poor people, you know, what they must be going through today, and the families.

"I know what it did to my daughter, because they're so far away from the people that are on holiday. They think they're having a lovely time and they're told this sort of news."

Although Luxor is a popular tourist destination and sees thousands of foreign visitors every year, there is no guarantee balloon pilots and other maintenance staff can speak English.

"You have a language disadvantage. You can't immediately tell people at the site what you're feeling or where you're hurting."

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