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Imperial Alumnus Dies in Hot Air Balloon Collision

May 31 2009 13:25
Lawrence Weetman
Turkish authorities have confirmed that the British tourist killed in a hot air balloon accident was leading space scientist Dr Kevin Beurle.
The accident happened in the Cappadocia region of Turkey.

A collision between two hot air balloons in Turkey has left one British man, Dr Kevin Beurle, dead and nine others injured.

The incident happened at around 6.30am local time on Friday, in the mountainous Cappadocia region of Turkey. Dr Beurle was a keen mountaineer and adventurer, saying on his website that he enjoyed "gravitation-related activities like mountaineering, skiing, and attempting to ride a unicycle".

Dr Beurle worked on the Cassini mission to Saturn in 1997.

Dr Beurle was a highly regarded Space Scientist. He studied here at Imperial College, completing both a BSc in Physics and a PhD. in Astronomy. Dr Beurle specialised in programming imaging software for telescopes at Queen Mary University of London, and was heavily involved in the development of the Cassini project - a spacecraft launched in late 1997 which began studying the surface of Saturn in 2004.

The group of holidaymakers were hoping to watch the sun rise over the stunning landscape and its "fairy chimneys" - a range of strangely shaped volcanic rock formations. Dr Beurle had posted a message on his facebook profile the evening before the incident, saying, "Kevin Beurle is enjoying hiking in the tufa landscape of Cappadocia". He was travelling with his close friend Juliet Boas, who suffered "critical injuries" in the accident. It is thought that she does not yet know of the death of Dr Beurle.

The balloon, belonging to Kapadokya Balloons, fell sharply to the ground after colliding with another balloon, less than 50 metres in the air. Turkish authorities said that they could not rule out winds or pilot error as a possible cause. Kapadokya Balloons reports that it has taken over 50,000 tourists for trips during its 20 years in business and had never had any accidents during this time.

Kevin was an extremely popular member of staff and will be greatly missed. We extend our deepest condolences to Kevin's family and friends at this very difficult time.
Professor Philip Ogden, acting principal of Queen Mary University of London

Colleague Carl Murray paid tribute to Dr Beurle, saying "The more difficult the problem, the more he enjoyed it. He enjoyed every aspect of his work on the Cassini project and he made fundamental contributions to the success of the mission. He will be greatly missed by his numerous friends and colleagues at Queen Mary and in the Cassini community around the world."

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