Cappadocia, Spanish tourists die in balloon accident

Turkey: pilot of the balloon in which two Spanish tourists died, in prison

The pilot blames the accident on the tourists for not following the rules. Conditions in Cappadocia were not suitable for flying that day.

The pilot of the balloon that suffered a rough landing on Tuesday in Cappadocia, killing two Spanish tourists and injuring three others, has been imprisoned after being arrested in connection with the investigation launched in Turkey into the accident, on which more and more details are being known.

Like every day, the balloon had taken off at dawn on October 18 from the vicinity of Zelve, in the Turkish province of Nevşehir, but due to a sudden change in the strength of the wind, it made a forced landing approximately one hour later outside the town of Kavak. As a result of the event, two of the tourists of Spanish nationality who were in the balloon -in which 28 passengers and 2 crew members were travelling- lost their lives.

The deceased have been identified as María Cristina Baltrons, 62 years old, and Dolors Masana, 64 years old. Three other Spanish tourists were injured; Turkish press has identified them as Josefa Franco Gil, 68, who would be in the intensive care unit of the Versa private hospital in Nevşehir; Lourdes Beltrán Sole, 62 years old and admitted to the Kapadokya private hospital, who has already been discharged; and finally, María Mercedes Riera (55 years old), who would have been admitted to the Nevşehir public hospital, and continues her treatment although her condition is not serious.

Judge orders entry into prison of the balloon pilot

As a result of the investigation launched after the accident, Turkish gendarmerie arrested the main pilot of the crashed balloon, identified as Moustafa M.A.K., apparently of Egyptian origin but with Turkish nationality, who after giving a statement in police offices was brought before a court in Nevşehir, where the judge decided his arrest, according to the Turkish news agency Anadolu, although his lawyer has appealed the court decision.

The pilot blames the passengers for the accident

According to information published in Turkish press, according to the version given by Moustafa M.A.K., married and with 10 years of experience piloting hot air balloons in Cappadocia, the pilot would blame for the accident to the passengers for not having followed his instructions during the forced landing: “I gave the necessary warnings to the passengers before landing with the balloon. 5 passengers fell (out of the basket) because they didn’t follow the rules about positioning during landing,” he said.

“We took off from the Zelve Ruins at 7:25 in the morning, with 28 passengers. At the end of an hour and a half fly, we landed in the Kilik region. Before landing with the balloon, I gave the necessary warnings to the passengers. I told them to follow the landing position rules. 5 passengers fell out of the basket because they did not follow the landing position rules. Unfortunately, they were not followed.”

The pilot’s testimony, however, contradicts that of the other passengers, all women, who were in the balloon; according to the statements made by the rest of the tourists who were in the same balloon as the victims of the accident, they all followed the instructions given by the pilot on how they should position themselves to land.

The bodies of the two Spanish tourists, pending repatriation

According to Turkish media, the two deceased Spanish tourists lived in the Catalan town of Lloret de Mar, and had traveled to the Turkish region of Cappadocia with a group of twenty tourists. Once the autopsies of both victims are completed, their bodies are scheduled to be transferred to Ankara to be repatriated today by plane to Spain.

Conditions were not favorable for flying

Finally, Turkish media such as AiportHaber reported in the last few hours, in relation to the balloon accident in which the two Spanish tourists died, that the pilot now detained had received a warning that the weather conditions were not suitable for flying. The outlet, citing data published by another Turkish online newspaper, Gazete Duvar, points out that at 5:56 on October 18, a notice was issued that no flights should be carried out over the regions of Ürgüp, Avanos, Orhahisar and Mustafapaşa in Cappadocia between 06:00 and 15:00, due to unfavorable weather conditions.