Three die in hot-air balloon collision in Turkey

Three Brazilian tourists have died and 22 other people were hurt after two hot-air balloons collided in central Turkey, officials say.

The accident occurred over Cappadocia's sculpted rock formations when one balloon's basket ripped another's envelope in mid-air, governor of Nevsehir province Abdurrahman Savas told Anatolia news agency.

"The lower balloon was torn and fell quickly," he said, citing witness accounts.

Two Brazilians aged 71 and 65 "lost their lives", while most of the injured suffered broken bones, Savas said.

A third Brazilian aged 76 died in hospital hours later. Ten Spaniards, seven Brazilians, three Argentines, a Portuguese and a Puerto Rican were all wounded, Anatolia reported.

A provincial official told the Turkish news agency the tourists were part of a group of South Americans vacationing in the region.

Aviation authorities have launched an investigation into the accident, Turkish television said.

Ballooning has become increasingly popular in recent years in Turkey.

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.

Halil Uluer, 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," he told Anatolia.

According to a Turkish tourism website, the region's hot-air balloon 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.

- AFP

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