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It is considered one of the highlights of a trip to Egypt -- a flight on a hot air balloon over the temples of Luxor, seat of power for the country’s ancient pharaohs and home to some of the country's most spectacular sites.
But on Tuesday, one flight turned to horror: Nineteen tourists were killed Tuesday when their balloon in Luxor exploded and plummeted to the ground.
Here on iReport, vacationers who had taken similar rides were quick to share their images and experiences.
While the crash has led to some raising questions about the safety of such balloon flights, previous travellers were quick to praise the efficiency and professionalism of their Egyptian hosts.
"I felt very safe and in fact remember thinking that the pilot and crew for my balloon were overly cautious and constantly on the radio, monitoring the other balloons in the group to ensure we didn't collide," said Gene Roth, who took a balloon ride in Luxor in July 2010.
"There was a full safety briefing prior to the flight and reminders along the way."
Business owner Thomas Stevens from Astbury Park, New Jersey, said he found news of the crash particularly sad because of the “calm and peaceful experience” he had enjoyed, watching the lush green fields of Luxor serenely sail by in the cool Egyptian morning air.
He took the trip in November 2011. "It must have been terrifying [the crash], because the ride itself is such a calm and peaceful experience, normally," he said.
Aside from a slightly bumpy landing, Mac Hopkin and his wife, retirees from near Dallas, Texas, had no complaints about what he described as “one of the highlights” of their Egypt trip in 2008.
“We didn't feel in any way that it wasn't as safe as air travel could be," he said."The crews seemed reasonably proficient, and judging from the number of balloons, [flying] is a very frequent occurrence."
Florida resident John Baldwin and his wife, who undertook a balloon flight in 2007, admitted they were taken aback by the 26 people permitted in the balloon’s basket, but said they felt fairly safe.
"I was saddened to hear of the deaths in Luxor, but since we took our ride in 2007 there must have been tens of thousands of safe flights," he said.
"Air travel, whether in an air plane, helicopter or balloon, has certain risks."
But for at least one vacationer the experience was an unnerving one shesaid she would not repeat.“The balloon almost crashed down,” said Denise Pereira, who visited Egypt from Curitiba, Brazil, last June.
“On my video you can see the balloon suddenly coming down and hear the pilot screaming 'landing position!' while the balloon goes directly to the wires and then to the houses. While the scenery was stunning, she acknowledges she boarded knowing nothing of the equipment’s maintenance or the crew’s qualifications.
“We were lucky, there was time to get back the altitude and we had no explosion,” she wrote in her iReport. “[But it was] My first and last balloon flight... ever!”
I went up with the same company in 12-08. I never felt anything but safe the whole time and would go again in a heartbeat. Sorrow for the people who died.
it's such a terrible tragedy...but air travel really has certain risks...
My wife and I can't wait to go -
and die in horrible flamming free fall death