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An illustration of a balloon disaster above the English Channel, United Kingdom.

An illustration published in 1887 depicts French scientist's Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier's balloon catching fire before it crashed in 1785.

Illustration from SSPL/Getty Images

Katia Andreassi

National Geographic News

Published February 26, 2013

A hot-air balloon exploded in Egypt yesterday as it carried 19 people over ancient ruins near Luxor. The cause is believed to be a torn gas hose. In Egypt as in many other countries, balloon rides are a popular way to sightsee. (Read about unmanned flight in National Geographic magazine.)

The sport of hot-air ballooning dates to 1783, when a French balloon took to the skies with a sheep, a rooster, and a duck. Apparently, they landed safely. But throughout the history of the sport, there have been tragedies like the one in Egypt. (See pictures of personal-flight technology.)

1785: Pioneering balloonist Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and pilot Pierre Romain died when their balloon caught fire, possibly from a stray spark, and crashed during an attempt to cross the English Channel. They were the first to die in a balloon crash.

1923: Five balloonists participating in the Gordon Bennett Cup, a multi-day race that dates to 1906, were killed when lightning struck their balloons.

1924: Meteorologist C. LeRoy Meisinger and U.S. Army balloonist James T. Neely died after a lightning strike. They had set off from Scott Field in Illinois during a storm to study air pressure. Popular Mechanics dubbed them "martyrs of science."

1995: Tragedy strikes the Gordon Bennett Cup again. Belarusian forces shot down one of three balloons that drifted into their airspace from Poland. The two Americans on board died. The other balloonists were detained and fined for entering Belarus without a visa. (Read about modern explorers who take to the skies.)

1989: Two hot air balloons collided during a sightseeing trip near Alice Springs, Australia. One balloon crashed to the ground killing all 13 people on board. The pilot of the other balloon was sentenced to a two-year prison term for "committing a dangerous act." Until today, this was considered the most deadly balloon accident.

2012: A balloon hit a power line and caught fire in New Zealand, killing all 11 on board. Investigators later determined that the pilot was not licensed to fly and had not taken  proper safety measures during the crash, like triggering the balloon's parachute and deflation system.

2012: A sightseeing balloon carrying 32 people crashed and caught fire during a thunderstorm in the Ljubljana Marshes in Slovenia. Six died; many other passengers were injured.

3 comments
robbie butler
robbie butler

hey ye forgot about the tullamore baloon crash in ireland  1875   in county offaly   it burned the hole town  down about   alot of ppl died and   etc

Angel Godoy
Angel Godoy

Son Eventos muy lamentables . tienen que tomar mas precausion

Geoff Walker
Geoff Walker

I have no idea of your sources but the facts are that in the 2012 event in New Zealand the pilot held a current commercial license however his medical certificate had recently expired. At this date the investigators have not completed their report.

Just like the tragic Egyptian event fire was the main issue.

I witnessed the New Zealand event taking photographs of it all unfolding.

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