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One Scot dies and another is injured in balloon horror crash

A woman from Perth has died following a horror hot air balloon crash in Egypt.

Rescue workers inspect the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village
Rescue workers inspect the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village

Yvonne Rennie is understood to have been on board the balloon when the tragedy happened near Luxor.

Her husband Michael Rennie, 49, and the Egyptian pilot are the only survivors of the crash.

It is thought Michael Rennie cheated death by leaping from the balloon as it exploded and plunged to the ground in flames in Luxor, Egypt.

A spokeswoman at Luxor International Hospital said tonight that Michael Rennie was in a stable condition. The pilot is also in hospital.

Perth & North Perthshire SNP MP Pete Wishart expressed his sadness at the tragedy.

He 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."

An eyewitness said people were jumping out of the balloon from "about the height of a seven-storey building".

SNP MSP Roseanna Cunningham, who represents Perthshire South & Kinross-shire, added: "This is very shocking news indeed and my prayers are with all those who have lost loved ones, but in particular to the family of my constituents who have been involved.

"They have my deepest sympathy for their loss and I sincerely wish Mr Rennie a full recovery from his injuries."

The Foreign Office confirmed that two British nationals and one British resident died when the balloon plunged to the ground in flames in Luxor.

Michael and Yvonne's next-door 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 have been together for a "long time", they were only married recently, Ms Kettles said.

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

Nineteen people died following the horrific hot air balloon crash in Egypt.

Tour operator Thomas Cook had earlier announced that three Britons had been killed and one more injured when the balloon plunged in flames to the ground in Luxor.

Witnesses described how they had seen tourists jumping from the balloon after it exploded at 1,000ft before crashing in fields.

Bodies of the dead were scattered across the fields around the remnants of the balloon.

The two Britons who initially survived were thought to have been in a critical condition when they were taken to hospital with the only other survivor - the Egyptian pilot.

Initially announcing the two British deaths, 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.

"While this investigation is under way, Thomas Cook UK has temporarily suspended sales of hot air balloon rides in Egypt," the company added.

Thomas Cook UK has opened a hotline for concerned relatives who have guests in resort - 0800 107 5638.

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.

Other victims are thought to have come from Hong Kong, Japan and France.

The balloon came down in sugar cane fields. Witnesses described hearing a loud explosion before seeing plumes of smoke as the balloon caught fire.

Christopher Michel described the carnage on Twitter, where he posted a series of photographs showing the balloons ahead of the flight.

He said: "It was the balloon behind mine. I heard a loud explosion and saw smoke."

Mr Michel, who previously made a balloon excursion with an English pilot, said the Egyptian operation "didn't feel quite as professional" as that of his first voyage.

The US photographer was taking aerial photographs at the time of the crash.

He told the BBC: "We flew over the ancient ruins. Just before landing in the cornfields, I heard an explosion and saw smoke. I think it was the balloon behind mine.

"I wasn't sure what had happened at first. It was only when we landed we heard the full extent of what happened."

He added: "It's really, really tragic and everyone involved is in a lot of shock."

Hamdy Shabaan, operations manager at another operator, Sinbad hot air balloons, said the basket was on fire when it fell to the ground.

He said there would be no more flights today as they are restricted to take place between 6am and 8am.

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.

Former policewoman Linda Lea, 67, from Stoke-on-Trent, still suffers from the multiple injuries she sustained in that crash.

She said today: "I cannot believe this has happened again. They promised to tighten safety procedures after my crash. Flights were stopped for a time.

"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 were too many then and too many in today's accident."

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.

Thomas Cook was giving no more details of those killed or injured, although it was thought that one of the dead Britons was an English male.

The company has around 150 clients in the Luxor area at present. The company was not giving out any information about just when the four Britons involved had started their holidays or what their package involved.

It is thought the one surviving Briton has been flown to hospital in Cairo more than 300 miles away. It was reported that this survivor had 70% burns.

The two Britons who initially survived are believed to have been among nine in the balloon who had leapt to the ground as the fire began. The rest of the tourists are thought to have died in the explosion.

Konny Matthews, assistant manager of a Luxor's Al Moudira hotel, said she heard a boom around 7am local time.

She went on: "It was a huge bang. It was a frightening bang, even though it was several kilometres away from the hotel. Some of my employees said that their homes were shaking."

Later, a Foreign Office spokesman said: "We can confirm the tragic deaths of two British nationals and one British resident following a hot air balloon crash in Luxor, Egypt earlier today.

"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."

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