'I still have flashbacks', says Stoke-on-Trent victim of Luxor balloon crash four years on
A PENSIONER badly injured in a hot air balloon crash in Egypt is still in constant pain almost four years after the accident.
Retired police officer Linda Lea was speaking out after 19 people were killed in a ballooning tragedy in the same city of Luxor yesterday.
Three Britons were among the tourists killed in yesterday's accident.
The 66-year-old, of Brown Edge, below, spent almost four months in hospitals in Egypt, Dudley and Stoke-on-Trent after suffering extensive injuries including a broken back, broken bones in her neck, broken ribs and collarbone and an open fracture to her leg.
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Now Mrs Lea has accused the balloon operators of failing to learn from previous accidents.
She said: "I was driving when I heard about the latest crash. I had to pull up and stop because I went straight into a vivid flashback.
"I have suffered flashbacks ever since my accident on April 25, 2009 and I am in constant pain every day.
"When I have flashbacks I can see people cartwheeling through the air, but I don't know if I'm imagining it or if it was real. The operators have learned nothing.
"It is disgusting that apparently nothing has changed over the last four years.
"They made loads of promises back then about retraining pilots and having fewer people on the balloons but nothing seems to have changed.
"I think the fact there were so many people on the balloon played a big part in the crash, it never seemed safe."
Mrs Lea's balloon plummeted 30-feet into a field after appearing to hit a mobile phone transmission tower.
She recalled hearing her leg break as she hit the ground before losing consciousness.
Mrs Lea added: "Eventually I was taken to the hospital at Luxor. On two occasions I was taken to the airport to be flown to Cairo, and both times the doctor refused to let me travel because I was too poorly.
"Eventually I was flown to Dudley Hospital. I was kept unconscious most of the time at Dudley, where I stayed for 12 days.
"Then I was moved to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, where I was told I had to lie completely still for 14 weeks or I would never walk again.
"I said to myself I would do just that – I had to get better."
The Egyptian Government suspended all balloon flights over Luxor following the 2009 accident, which killed four French tourists.
But Mrs Lea has never received any compensation.
She added: "Fortunately my insurance included repatriation so I was flown back soon after.
"But once we got back there was trouble with the insurance.
"My insurers could not get a payment out of the Egyptian Government and I believe there has never been any punishment of the company which ran the flight."