According to officials, the balloon's pilot was trying to stabilise it but in the process a gas pipe got torn. Consequently the balloon caught fire. The pilot and two of the tourists on board jumped to safety even as the balloon soared to an altitude of 300 m before plunging onto an agricultural field.
A witness was quoted by the BBC as saying that the ill-fated balloon "hit a high pressure electrical cable and a cylinder on board exploded." Cherry Tohamy recounted how three panic-stricken "people jumped out of the balloon from about the height of a seven-storey building."
Sky Cruise, the company operating the balloon, also blamed the cylinder explosion for the crash.
The initial death toll of 14 was revised upwards after it emerged that four Japanese nationals, two Britons, two Belgians, two French tourists and as many as nine people from Hong Kong had died in the mishap.
Incidentally, this is not the first instance of a hot air balloon crashing in the area. A total of 16 tourists sustained injuries in a similar incident nearly four years ago.
After the Apr 2009 crash, the authorities barred hot air balloons from flying over Luxor where tourist attractions like the Karnak temple abound on the banks of the Nile river. However, of late balloons can be routinely seen at dawn in the skies above the city.
Many tourists prefer an aerial view of the monuments and archeological ruins dating back to the time of the Pharaohs.