A British woman who was seriously injured four years ago when a hot air balloon crashed in Luxor in Egypt today blasted the tourist operators, and fumed: “They have learned nothing.”
Linda Lea, 66, almost died when a hot air balloon plunged 30ft to the ground in an almost identical crash to the one which killed 19 people in the same city today.
The retired police officer suffered broken bones in her back, neck, ribs and collar bone as well as an open fracture to her leg in the horrific accident which killed four people and injured 16 tourists.
The mum-of-one was one of 26 people taking a trip on a hot air balloon on April 25, 2009 when it collided with a mobile phone mast.
The basket plummeted to the ground before engulfing into a fireball when it landed in a field.
Mrs Lea was left writhing in agony for an hour before rescuers reached her and rushed her to hospital.
Almost exactly four years on, Mrs Lea, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs., said she nearly swerved off the road when she heard about the latest tragedy.
And she blames an almost complete lack of safety features and says she is still in pain from the crash.
She said: “I was driving when I heard about the latest crash. I had to pull up and stop because I went straight into a vivid flashback.
“I have suffered flashbacks ever since it happened and I’m in constant pain every day, my movement is nowhere near what it used to be.
“I feel so sorry for those families involved, because their lives have been changed today. My daughter had to fly out to Egypt to see me after the crash.
“When I arrived at the site in 2009 I was immediately unsure I wanted to do it.
“The balloon was tethered to a lorry which had to reverse to keep it from floating away in the wind.
“I was literally picked up and put into the balloon with 25 other people, you were crammed in almost like sardines.
“When we took off I could tell the pilot wasn’t happy, then once we got out of the valley the strong winds caught us straight away.
“We flew away sideways and hit a telephone mast and the balloon exploded and we just plummeted to the ground.
“Four French tourists died and so many were injured, we were just thrown out of the balloon as it dragged along the ground.
“I was the last person to be taken off the field and was taken to hospital.”
Mrs Lea suffered insult to injury when she returned home and the Egyptian government refused to pay the victims any compensation.
She added: “Fortunately my insurance included repatriation so I was flown back soon after.
“But once we got back there was trouble with insurance. Because I had booked the flight over in Egypt because a friend wanted to go there was no insurance payout.
“Then my insurers couldn’t get a payment out of the Egyptian government and I believe there has never been any punishment of the company that ran the flight.
“It’s disgusting that apparently nothing has changed over the years. They made loads of promises back then about retraining pilots and having fewer people on the balloons but nothing seems to have changed.
“I think the fact there were so many people on the balloon was a big part of the crash, it never seemed safe.
“I have only flown once since then, and I won’t be doing it again.
“I warn anyone I know or meet away from balloons, I know safety measures are better over here but you never know.”