Huffpost UK uk

British Luxor Balloon Crash Victims Named As Yvonne Rennie, Joe Bampton And Suzanna Gyetvai

Posted: Updated:
EGYPT BALLOON CRASH
The balloon exploded and crashed into a field near Luxor | Getty Images

Two Britons and a UK resident killed in a horrific balloon crash which left 19 people dead were named tonight.

Yvonne Rennie, Joe Bampton and Hungarian-born Suzanna Gyetvai died in the tragedy in Luxor, Egypt - the biggest accident of its kind in history.

Mrs Rennie's husband Michael is in hospital after cheating death by leaping from the balloon as it exploded and plunged to the ground in flames.

Witnesses described hearing a loud explosion before seeing plumes of smoke as the balloon caught fire.

People were seen jumping out of the balloon from "about the height of a seven-storey building".

Mr Rennie is at Luxor international hospital, where a spokeswoman said tonight he was in a stable condition.

Mr Bampton, a British national, and his partner Ms Gyetvai, a British resident, were from in Clapham, south London.

Mr and Mrs Rennie, from Perth, Scotland, were described as "very nice people" who only spent the weekends together due to work commitments.

Neighbour Linda Kettles said: "They were very, very nice people who kept themselves to themselves.

"They've gone on holiday to enjoy themselves. They only get the weekends together and any break together is good for them.

"They were really looking forward to getting away.

"I'm totally devastated by the news. I really feel for their families."

The couple moved from Dundee to Perth about 10 years ago and although they had been together for a "long time" they were married only recently, Ms Kettles said.

Mrs Rennie worked as a hospital receptionist and Mr Rennie in the construction industry, she said.

Harrowing pictures emerged of the wreckage earlier in the day, which showed the dead in body bags at the scene of the crash.

Cherry Tohamy, an Egyptian living in Kuwait who was on holiday in Luxor, was in another balloon which was landing when she heard an explosion and saw flames from a balloon above.

She told the BBC: "Our pilot told us that the balloon had hit a high-pressure electrical cable and a cylinder on board exploded.

"People were jumping out of the balloon from about the height of a seven-storey building."

She said ambulances were at the scene within 15 minutes.

The four Britons involved were on holiday in Luxor with tour operator Thomas Cook.

The other tourists, including holidaymakers from France, Hong Kong and Japan, were all thought to have died in the explosion. Authorities in Luxor, where there have been previous balloon crashes, have suspended all balloon flights and an investigation is under way.

The four Britons were believed to have been among nine people who had jumped from the balloon.

Thomas Cook UK and Europe chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: "What happened in Luxor this morning is a terrible tragedy and the thoughts of everyone in Thomas Cook are with our guests, their family and friends."

He said the company had a very experienced team in Luxor and that full support was being provided to the family and friends of those who had died.

Thomas Cook said it was working with local officials and a full investigation would be taking taking place. The company is asking concerned relatives who have guests in the resort to contact 0800 107 5638.

Perth & North Perthshire SNP MP Pete Wishart said: "I have been in close contact with the Foreign Office about this awful incident and have been receiving updates as more information has become available.

"I understand that a couple from my constituency are involved, that one is dead and the other injured and in hospital.

"My thoughts are with their family at this very difficult time."

Offering his sympathies First Minister Alex Salmond said: "This is a terrible tragedy and my thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of those involved.

"The Scottish Government has been in contact with the Foreign Office who are providing support in Egypt and we stand ready to provide any assistance if necessary."

Hot air balloon trips usually take place at sunrise over the Karnak and Luxor temples as well as the Valley of the Kings.

Sixteen people were hurt, including two British women, when a balloon crashed during a tour of Luxor in April 2009.

The balloon was believed to have hit a mobile phone transmission tower near the banks of the Nile.

Following the 2009 crash, early-morning hot air balloon flights over the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of the Nile were suspended for six months while safety measures were tightened up.

During the break, all 42 pilots from the eight companies who operate flights had extra training.

Other initiatives to improve safety brought in included confining all take-offs to a new balloon "airport" and limiting the maximum number of balloons up at the same time to eight. Previously as many as 50 could share the air space.