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Clapham couple die in Egypt balloon crash

Damaged remains of the hot air balloon are seen at the site of the accident, in Luxor, Egypt. Picture: AP Photo/Nasser Nasser Damaged remains of the hot air balloon are seen at the site of the accident, in Luxor, Egypt. Picture: AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
7:16 AM

A couple from Clapham were among 19 people killed in a horrific balloon crash in Egypt.

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

Also killed was Briton Yvonne Rennie, whose 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.

Mr Rennie was last night being treated at Luxor international hospital, where a spokeswoman said he was in a stable condition.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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