Egypt balloon crash: Two Britons and UK resident die

Tourists on a second balloon watched in horror as the tragedy unfolded

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The three British residents who died after a hot air balloon carrying tourists crashed near Luxor in Egypt, killing 19 people, have been named.

Joe Bampton, 40, his Hungarian-born partner Suzanna Gyetvai, 34, both from Clapham, south London and Yvonne Rennie from Perth died.

Mrs Rennie's husband Michael is in hospital in Egypt and is described as being in "remarkably good shape".

The dead also included French, Hong Kong, Egyptian and Japanese citizens.

Officials in Luxor have now banned all hot air balloon flights.

The balloon is said to have been 1,000 ft (300m) in the air when it exploded, caught fire and fell on to agricultural fields but the pilot is also thought to have survived.

Mohammed Yousef, pilot of another balloon: "I saw fire in the basket"

A Foreign Office spokesman 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."

The British ambassador to Egypt, James Watt, told the BBC he had visited Mr Rennie at Luxor International Hospital.

Flowers have been left outside the Rennies' home.

A neighbour, Kathleen Lumsden, said the couple had talked about taking a balloon trip before their holiday.

She said: "They were very good neighbours, a nice couple. I am sure he was speaking about this holiday and he was speaking about going on a hot air balloon. He was quite adventurous and tended to do these sort of things. It's really, really a big shock."

'People jumping'

The crash happened on one of the many dawn hot air balloon flights that give tourists a view of the area's tourist attractions, such as Karnak temple and the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

Civil Aviation Minister Wael al-Maadawi said a committee from the ministry would investigate the incident.

Yvonne Rennie Yvonne Rennie's husband Michael is being treated in hospital in Egypt

An investigator with the state prosecutor's office told the Associated Press that the balloon had been landing at about 07:00 (05:00 GMT) when a landing cable got caught around a tube and a fire broke out on board.

The balloon then quickly gained altitude before the fire caused the gas canister to explode and it fell to the ground in a sugar cane field outside the village of al-Dhabaa, west of Luxor, an Egyptian security official said.

Mohammed Youssef, a pilot of another balloon which was in the air nearby at the time, told the Guardian newspaper that the fire started when it was 3m from the ground and was caused by a gas leak.

The pilot and a British passenger jumped to safety when the fire erupted, which affected the balance of the balloon, sending more heat into its "envelope" and causing it to climb rapidly, he said. About five or six other people leapt out when it was about 30m (100ft) off the ground, he added.

"People were jumping out of the balloon from about the height of a seven-storey building," Cherry Tohamy, an Egyptian who was in another balloon, told the BBC. Ambulances arrived 15 minutes later, she said.

The governor of Luxor, Ezzat Saad, told the BBC he wanted to send his condolences to the families of those killed and injured.

UK's ambassador to Egypt says crash survivor Michael Rennie had an "extraordinary escape"

"For the safety of the tourists and the Egyptians I have ordered all the companies dealing with balloons to stop flights until we know exactly what happened and the reasons for it."

Travel company Thomas Cook confirmed Mr Bampton and Ms Gyetvai were its customers and said the accident was a "terrible tragedy".

Thomas Cook UK and Europe chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: "The thoughts of everyone in Thomas Cook are with our guests, their family and friends.

"We're providing our full support to the family and friends of the deceased at this difficult time."

Luxor lies on the banks of the River Nile in the south of the country, and has long been a popular tourist destination.

Map showing scene of crash

Hot air balloon crashes have happened in Luxor before. Two British women were among 16 injured when their balloon came down after hitting a communications tower in April 2009.

Balloons were grounded for six months after that crash while safety measures were tightened and pilots were re-trained by Egypt's Civil Aviation Authority.

Linda Lea, 67, a retired policewoman from Stoke-on-Trent, who had four months of hospital treatment after the 2009 crash that left her with 26 broken bones, said the latest incident brought back painful memories.

Linda Lea: "It brought back all the mayhem and horrific events of that day"

The balloon Mrs Lea flew in hit a mobile phone mast, ripping the balloon and causing an explosion that brought it crashing down.

"These balloons are just too unstable. There is not enough training of staff. There were about 22 or 23 in my balloon when it crashed and maybe there was too many then, and too many in today's accident," she said.

Alex Gibbons, from Sheffield, who was on a hot air balloon that crashed into the Nile near Luxor in 2011 after the pilot apparently ran out of gas, warned tourists against taking such flights.

Mr Gibbons told the BBC: "You get caught up in the holiday picture-postcard type of sell they have for you but we weren't aware of the volume of people that went in a basket."

He claimed his incident was covered up and not brought to the attention of the media in the UK because after it happened it was described as having been a "training flight" with no tourists on board.

Mark Packer, from London, who went on a balloon in Luxor earlier this month, said he was left "scared" by his experience.

He said the pilots did not appear to treat the equipment carefully and his flight hit a tree.

"They go up to 800 or 1,000 feet, then bring the balloon down and across the temples at a low height," he told the BBC.

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