Tributes to British victims of Egypt balloon disaster

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THE British survivor of the balloon disaster in Egypt paid tribute yesterday to his wife, whom he described as “my rock, my friend, my shoulder to cry on”.

Michael Rennie, 49, was one of just two survivors of the crash at Luxor that killed 19 people, including his wife Yvonne, on Tuesday.

There were also tributes paid by Maureen Bampton to her London-based son Joe, 40, and his partner Zsi Gyetvai.

Mr Rennie, of Perth, Scotland, who is thought to have survived by leaping from the basket, issued a statement yesterday in which he said Mrs Rennie was “my world”.

He said: “I would like to thank the staff at both hospitals in Cairo and Luxor, the British 
Embassy – especially Hala Hamam and John Hamilton – and Kathryn Brace from (tour operator) Thomas Cook for helping me through these last few days.

“My heartfelt condolences go out to the other families that have lost relatives around the world in this terrible disaster.

“I would be grateful to the media for respecting my privacy and that of my family at this difficult time.”

Earlier, Mrs Bampton described her son and his partner as “wonderfully creative and sensitive individuals”.

She said: “I would like to thank everyone for their messages of condolence, cards and flowers following the tragic deaths of my son Joe Bampton and his girlfriend Zsi Gyetvai in Egypt on Tuesday.

“My son and Zsi were wonderfully creative and sensitive 
individuals who lived life to the full and enjoyed being in Clapham Common with their dog Ollie.”

Mr Bampton had worked at Lots Road Auctions, Chelsea, as a valuer and cataloguer for rugs and carpets since leaving the Slade School of Art in London in the mid-1990s, when he graduated.

He met his partner, who was an artist, at the auction house after she graduated from Kingston College of Art.

Mr Bampton was an active member of the Chelsea Arts Club, captaining their snooker team and exhibiting his own art there.

His mother added: “Joe and Zsi will be sadly missed by their families, and work colleagues, and their many, many good friends.”

Witnesses to the hot air balloon tragedy described seeing passengers jump to their deaths from the doomed craft after it exploded at more than 1,000ft and crashed into a sugar cane field below.

The balloon excursions are popular with British visitors to Egypt. Authorities in Luxor, where there have been previous balloon crashes, suspended all balloon flights while investigations are under way.