Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Tributes for balloon crash victims

Smoke rises from a hot air balloon after it burst into flame and then plummeted about 1,000 feet to earth, killing 19 people (AP)
Egyptians gather near the scene of the balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, west of Luxor (AP)
Flowers on the doorstep of Michael Rennie and his wife Yvonne at their home in Perth

Tributes have poured in for the British victims of a hot air balloon crash in Egypt in which 19 people were killed.

Joe Bampton, 40, and his Hungarian-born partner, Suzanna Gyetvai, 34, both artists, were described by their south London neighbours as "a quiet, lovely couple".

And neighbours of Scot Michael Rennie, 49, who survived the horrific crash in Luxor, and his wife Yvonne, 48, who was killed, spoke of them as "very, very nice people".

Mr Rennie, who was among tourists who leapt from the burning balloon after it exploded at 1,000ft during a sunrise flight, is recovering in hospital in Egypt. He and the balloon's Egyptian pilot were the only ones to escape with their lives after the accident which is believed to be the worst ever hot air balloon disaster. All balloon flights have been halted in the area and an inquiry mounted.

A native of Wallasey on Merseyside, Mr Bampton was a visual artist and was a well-known face on the Liverpool art scene before moving to Clapham in south London. With Ms Gyetvai, who was known to workmates through her artist name Zsi Chimera, Mr Bampton worked at Lots Road Auctions in Chelsea in south-west London. Lots Road auctioneer Nick Carter said: "It's like losing a brother, not just a colleague or friend. It's pretty gut-wrenching."

The Rennies were from Perth in Scotland. Neighbour Linda Kettles said: "They were very, very nice people. They'd gone on holiday to enjoy themselves. They only got the weekends together and any break together was good for them. They were really looking forward to getting away. I'm totally devastated by the news."

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 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."

The four Britons involved were on holiday in Luxor with tour operator Thomas Cook. The other tourists who were killed were from France, Hong Kong and Japan.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond described the accident as "a terrible tragedy" while Perth and North Perthshire SNP MP Pete Wishart spoke of "this awful incident".

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