At least one tourist was seriously injured and eight others slightly injured when a hot air balloon crashed into a palm tree during a botched landing on Tuesday in Siem Reap, a Siem Reap Tourist Police officer at the Angkor Wat archaeological park said yesterday.
The officer, who asked not to be named, said the crash landing in a rice paddy was caused by a gust of wind, and was at least the fourth such incident since its operator – Cambodian Flight International Travel – started business in December.
“According to an eyewitness, this balloon was about to land before there was a high wind, just only five metres above the ground,” the officer said. “When the wind came suddenly, it threw the balloon into a palm tree in a paddy field, causing nine tourists to be injured.”
Staff at the hospitals where the tourists were treated said they had already been discharged when contacted yesterday.
A Russian media report on Tuesday said the balloon was at a height of approximately 300 meters when it first encountered a problem, and that only seven were injured.
“Thanks to the pilot’s skills, we’ve survived, but the hot air balloon itself was completely damaged,” passenger Maksim Vasin reportedly told Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
However, a Cambodia Flight Holiday staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity denied the balloon had crashed.
“We landed on time before the gusty wind came. Two passengers just received minor injuries, but I would like to confirm that our balloon did not fall down,” she said, adding that flights would be cancelled for two days due to the weather.
Kim Sophorn, an undersecretary of state at the Secretariat for Civil Aviation, said operators should avoid flying in windy conditions to “prevent crashes before they happen”.
“We inspect [flight companies] before they begin operating” to ensure they meet regulations, he added. “After I’ve got the report [on this crash], we will have the inspectors go to inspect the result to decide the measures... to prevent this.”
A Cambodia Flight Holiday excursion in February ended when the balloon overshot its mark, dragging its ground team behind it, before coming to a stop in the middle of a busy road.
With assistance from Stuart White