ISTANBUL - Agence France-Presse
Two balloons collided in the touristic region of Cappadocia, causing one of the balloons to crash to the ground. DHA photo
Three Brazilian tourists died Monday and 22 other people were hurt after two hot-air balloons collided in a beauty spot in central Turkey, officials said.
The accident occurred over Cappadocia's sculpted rock formations when one balloon's basket ripped another's envelope in mid-air, the governor of Nevsehir province, Abdurrahman Savaş, told Anatolia news agency.
"The lower balloon was torn and fell quickly," he said, citing witness accounts.
Savaş said two Brazilians aged 71 and 65 "lost their lives", while most of the injured suffered broken bones.
A third Brazilian aged 76 died in hospital hours later, Anatolia reported, adding that 10 Spaniards, seven Brazilians, three Argentines, a Portuguese and a Puerto Rican were wounded.
A provincial official told the Turkish news agency the tourists were part of a group of South Americans vacationing in the region.
Turkish television said aviation authorities have launched an investigation into the accident.
Several companies offer hot-air balloon rides over Cappadocia, which is a major tourist attraction with its cone-shaped rock formations, rock-carved underground cities and early Christian churches.
The owner of the hot-air balloon that went down said he was "shocked" by the tragedy but said the pilot had taken all the necessary safety measures. "These types of flights have been happening safely in Cappadocia for 20 years," Halil Uluer told the news agency.
According a Turkish tourism website, the region's hot-air ballon sector has grown exponentially over the past decade, with 20 different companies running around 140 balloons and employing 1,400 people.
The accident comes three months after a balloon exploded in Luxor, Egypt, killing 19 people on February 26.
In 2009, a British tourist was also killed in a balloon crash during a tour of the Cappadocia region.