Hot Air Balloons Rise Again Over Angkor Wat

A hot air balloon company in Siem Reap province recommenced flights this week, nine months after one of its balloons carrying 17 tourists over the Angkor Wat temple complex crash-landed and injured nine people, an official said Wednesday.

The Chinese-owned company, Cambodia Flight Holiday International, is the only company operating untethered balloon trips over the temple complex. But authorities grounded the company’s balloons shortly after the incident on March 26, when unexpected strong winds forced a balloon pilot to make an emergency landing, leaving nine people hospitalized and two with serious injuries.

“The balloon crash accident last year happened because there were strong winds and also perhaps staff did not do enough to estimate the wind speeds,” said Keo Sivorn, an undersecretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, adding that aviation authorities had suspended the company from flying two days after the accident.

Since then, the company has cooperated with authorities, and after test flights was given the go-ahead last week to resume service.

“We have tested the balloons and the company has correct documents such as life insurance for passengers so we allowed them to begin flights,” Mr. Sivorn said, adding that a new license for the company was currently being processed.

Mao Veesan, who is part of the management team at Cambodia Flight Holiday International, said Wednesday that balloon flights were running again as normal.

“It was not a crash, just a small accident, and we are taking care of the passengers who were injured through our insurance company,” he said of the incident in March. “

“Safety is important to us, but our safety measures are good and we cooperate with the civil aviation department and the weather services up until one hour before we fly.”

One of those injured in the accident, Malou Ojastro from the Philippines, has documented the crash online on her blog, showing photographs from inside the balloon as it crashed, and of her broken wrist.

“I’m not yet totally healed physically, emotionally and mentally…because up to this day, flights, heights, travel still fears me each time,” she wrote in a post last month.

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