Egypt Balloon Explosion: Britons Killed

Two Britons and a UK resident were among 19 people who died when a hot air balloon exploded near the ancient Egyptian city of Luxor.

Sky sources named the British nationals who were killed as Yvonne Rennie, from Perth, and Joe Bampton, 40.

Mrs Rennie's husband, Michael, 49, survived the crash and is in hospital in Cairo in a stable condition. 

Mr Rennie is thought to have survived the crash by jumping out of the blazing basket as it fell to the ground.

The UK resident who was killed was Mr Bampton's partner, Hungarian-born Suzanna Gyetvai, 34, the Press Association said.

The couple lived in Clapham, London.

The only other survivor was the pilot, an Egyptian man, who is in hospital with burns to 60% of his body.

He jumped from the basket when it was 10-15 metres (yards) from the ground, said Ahmed Aboud, the head of an association representing Luxor balloon operators.

A witness told the Press Association that people were jumping out of the balloon from "about the height of a seven-storey building".

A security official said the balloon, which was carrying 20 tourists and the pilot, had been preparing to land when it caught fire after a cable got tangled around a pipe.

The fire triggered an explosion in its gas canister and the balloon then plunged some 300 metres (1,000 feet) into sugar cane fields.

France's Foreign Ministry confirmed two French nationals died in the crash.

One Egyptian was also killed, Health Minister Mohamed Mostafa Hamed said.

Japanese citizens as well as nine tourists from Hong Kong are believed to be among the other casualties.

Mr and Mrs Rennie's neighbour Linda Kettles said the couple were "very, very nice people who kept themselves to themselves".

She added: "They were really looking forward to getting away. I'm totally devastated by the news. I really feel for their families."

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

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

The UK resident who is believed to be from Hungary initially survived the crash, but died in hospital.

In confirming the "tragic deaths", the Foreign Office said: "The next of kin have been informed and our thoughts are with them and their families at this difficult time.

"We are providing them with consular assistance. We can also confirm that one other British national was involved and is in a stable condition.

"We have had consular officials in Luxor since early this morning who have been focused on providing consular assistance and supporting the Egyptian authorities.

"Our ambassador to Egypt has met the injured British national and has offered our assistance."

Witness Christopher Michel was travelling in one of several balloons in the air above Luxor early on Tuesday morning.

He told Sky News: "I was in one of about eight balloons that were flying that morning. We were approaching landing ... coming down in a remote field just outside of Luxor.

"We heard a loud explosion behind us, and I looked back and saw lots of smoke. It wasn't immediately clear that it was a balloon. We were surrounded by the balloons that had been flying with us.

"Then we could see the reaction of the pilot on the balloon and he said that this hasn't happened in a long time."

The Britons involved in the accident had been on holidays booked through Thomas Cook, which has temporarily suspended sales of hot air balloon rides in Egypt.

The tour company said: "As well as Thomas Cook's experienced team on the ground in Luxor, the tour operator is sending a specialist welfare team to support all of its customers in resort.

"Counselling services will be provided to any guests who want them and Thomas Cook's experienced reps are also visiting hotels regularly to speak to customers." 

Luxor Governor Ezzat Saad has imposed an immediate ban on all hot air balloon flights in the province as Prime Minister Hesham Qandeel ordered an investigation into the accident.

Hot air ballooning is popular with tourists who go to Luxor to visit its ancient temples and the tombs of the Valley of the Kings.

But the activity is not without its dangers. In April 2009, 16 people were hurt - including two British women - when a balloon crashed during a tour of Luxor.

:: Thomas Cook UK has opened a hotline for families who have relatives in Egypt: 0800 107 5638.

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