Tributes paid to Brits killed in balloon crash

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TRIBUTES have today flooded in to the three British tourists killed in the balloon crash in Egypt.

Yvonne Rennie, Joe Bampton and Hungarian-born Suzanna Gyetvai died in the tragedy over the ancient city of Luxor - the biggest accident of its kind in history.

Rescue workers inspect the scene of a balloon crash outside Luxor.  Picture: AP

Rescue workers inspect the scene of a balloon crash outside Luxor. Picture: AP

Mrs Rennie’s husband Michael remains in hospital today 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.

People were seen jumping out of the balloon from “about the height of a seven-storey building”.

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

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

“The Scottish Government has been in contact with the Foreign Office who are providing support in Egypt and we stand ready to provide any assistance if necessary.”

Tributes have also been paid to Mr Bampton, a British national, and his partner Ms Gyetvai, a British resident, were from in Clapham, south London.

Mr Bampton and Ms Gyetvai, 34, were aspiring artists who worked at Lots Road Auctions in Chelsea, west London.

Devastated colleagues said the couple “fell in love at first sight” and began dating soon after Ms Gyetvai joined the company four years ago.

Ms Gyetvai, who was known to workmates through her artist name Zsi Chimera, was a general valuer with the company, while Mr Bampton was an expert valuer in rugs, carpets and furniture.

Lots Road auctioneer Nick Carter said: “It’s like losing a brother, not just a colleague or friend.

“It’s pretty gut-wrenching. Joe was a lovely person, very laid back and very calm.

“Zsi was different to Joe in some ways. She was very direct and headstrong. They made great companions.”

The couple had previously been on holiday to Egypt together two years ago, colleagues said.

Mr Bampton, who had worked at Lots Road Auctions for almost 20 years, had exhibited artworks in London and Berlin.

Ms Gyetvai was also a successful contemporary artist, who had paintings exhibited in London galleries and was registered with the online Saatchi gallery.

Neighbours today expressed their shock at the deaths of Mr Bampton and Ms Gyetvai.

Alison Robertson, 56, who lived next door, said: “They were a lovely couple - very quiet, unassuming people.

“It’s such a waste of life. They were young and it’s very sad.”

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.

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.