American, Dane die in hot air balloon crash while on safari at Tanzania’s Serengeti Nat’l Park

Friday, October 1, 2010

American, Dane die in balloon crash over Serengeti

ARUSHA, Tanzania — A hot air balloon carrying tourists over Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park crashed this week, killing an American and a Danish tourist and wounding eight others, officials said Friday.

Aviation experts are investigating Wednesday’s crash, but officials said there were indications that strong winds played a role.

National parks in Tanzania and Kenya offer hot air balloon rides at sunrise as a way to view wildlife from above.

Serengeti Balloon Safaris said it was the first fatal crash in 20 years of operation in the Serengeti.

“We will do all we can to prevent something like this from happening again,” a statement from Maria Strauss, the company’s general manager, said. “Exact details of the incident are still unclear although we do know there was a problem of turbulent wind during landing.”

The company noted that two licensed pilots were on board and that the balloon had a new and fully stocked first-aid kit.

Balloon rides in Serengeti usually start at 5 a.m. near Maasai Kopjes. The balloons float in whichever direction the winds take them but the pilots control the altitude.

Serengeti is a world heritage site and attracts about 100,000 tourists annually, mainly from the U.S., Germany, France, Britain and Japan.

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