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Video: probe after Scot killed in hot-air balloon crash

AN investigation is under way after a Scottish woman was among 19 tourists who died in an Egyptian hot-air balloon accident.

SHOCK: Yvonne Rennie died when the hot-air balloon she was in caught fire and crashed. Picture: Fraser Band
SHOCK: Yvonne Rennie died when the hot-air balloon she was in caught fire and crashed. Picture: Fraser Band

Tour operator Thomas Cook drafted in a team of experienced investigators to examine the events that led to the deaths. The victims included hospital worker Yvonne Rennie, 48, from Perth, another British citizen and a Hungarian-born UK resident.

The balloon carrying 20 passengers was 1000ft above the ground when it caught fire shortly after being released and plunged into sugar cane fields.

Mrs Rennie's husband Mike, 49, was the only passenger to escape. He leapt from the basket, but suffered serious injuries. The couple had gone on the trip for a dramatic early morning view of the Valley of the Kings and other ancient sites.

Watch amateur footage of the crash below.

 

Mr Rennie, who works in the construction industry, was visited by the British ambassador to Egypt, who said he was in "remarkably good shape".

Neighbour Linda Kettles said they were a hard-working couple. Mrs Rennie was an appointments officer at Perth Royal Infirmary.

Mrs Kettles added: "I'm totally devastated by the news. I feel for their families."

Joe Bampton, 40 from London and his Hungarian-born partner Suzanna Gyetvai, 34, both died in the accident.

Mrs Rennie joined the radiology department of Perth Royal Infirmary as an appointments officer in June 2006, having worked at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, latterly as a senior administrative officer.

NHS Tayside clinical services manager of the diagnostics group, Tejinder Chima, said: "Yvonne's untimely death has left all the staff at Perth Royal Infirmary and throughout NHS Tayside deeply saddened at the loss of a very dear colleague and friend. Yvonne will be greatly missed by all.

"She was a highly valued member of the radiology department team, providing excellent service in helping to deliver patient care."

Radiology manager Douglas Mitchell said: "We are in shock at the sudden and tragic loss of Yvonne. She was a much-loved colleague who enjoyed her job and her tragic passing has had a huge impact on all of us who knew and worked with her. She will be sadly missed."

Eyewitnesses said the balloon exploded into flames before crashing as its occupants jumped out while it was still high in the air. One witness said they were leaping from "about the height of a seven-storey building".

The only other survivor was the Egyptian pilot, who is being treated for 60% burns after he jumped out.

The other holidaymakers, from France, Hong Kong and Japan, are thought to have died in the initial explosion or on impact.

Authorities in Luxor, where there have been a spate of previous balloon crashes, suspended all balloon flights and are carrying out their own investigation.

The tourists were on a package trip organised by Thomas Cook, although the ride was not thought to be part of that deal. The company's UK and Europe chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: "What happened in Luxor is a terrible tragedy and the thoughts of everyone at Thomas Cook are with our guests, their family and friends."

He added that Thomas Cook's team in Luxor was providing support to the family and friends of the victims.

The operator said it was working with local officials and a full investigation would be taking place. It is asking concerned relatives who have families staying in the resort to contact them.

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

He said the Scottish Government had been in contact with the Foreign Office and was ready to provide any assistance.

The Foreign Office said the next of kin of the three British dead were being provided with consular assistance.

US photographer Christopher Michel posted a series of photographs on Twitter he had taken showing the balloons ahead of the flight he was on. He said: "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."

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.

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

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