Guide tells hot air balloon tragedy inquest he did not know insurance detailsHong Kong | 02-15 16:57
The coroner said she was tasked to find out what led to the tragedy, but not mandated to deal with issues of liability or compensation.
The coroner's inquest will try to find out the circumstances leading to the deaths after the hot air balloon caught fire in mid air, exploded and plunged to the ground in Luxor in February 2013.
Several bereaved family members attended the court, where a model of a hot air balloon basket was placed.
At the start of the proceeding, coroner June Cheung made it clear that her jurisdiction allows her only to determine what did and did not happen before the accident, and make recommendations.
The guide who brought the tour group to Luxor was the first to testify. Wilson Au told the court that the hot air balloon was an optional activity and customers had to pay for it themselves. Eventually, nine out of 15 customers in the tour joined.
Au said the trip was covered by what was called a "flying insurance", but admitted he did not know details of this coverage. He also said he had explained safety procedures to the passengers, though he was never trained to do it.
The tour guide said the travel agency he works for – Kuoni Travel Limited – provides various kinds of insurance policies, including optional activities like the hot air balloon trip. But it was for the customers to decide which to buy.
The inquest is expected to last 10 days. Witnesses include an overseas expert on aviation and hot air balloon operation.
A report by the Egyptian aviation authority would also be examined. It had concluded there was a fuel leak on the balloon and the pilot, who survived the tragedy, breached safety protocols.—RTHK