Balloon tragedy: Three Britons among 19 killed in Luxor sunrise flight disaster

Three holidaymakers from Britain died and another was in hospital after a hot air balloon burst into flames and crashed in Egypt, claiming 19 lives.

The launch site near Luxor in Egypt, prior to a hot air balloon explosion which killed 19 tourists

The tourists were enjoying a sunrise flight over ancient sights near the city of Luxor when it is understood a gas tank exploded, sending the craft soaring 1,300ft (396 metres) before it caught fire and plummeted to the ground, killing all but two of those on board in what is thought to be the worst accident of its kind in history.

The passengers on holiday from Britain were reported to have been two couples, Michael and Yvonne Rennie, from Perth, and Joe Bampton and his Hungarian partner Zsi Gyetuai, who were living in London. The Foreign Office confirmed two British nationals and a British resident had died. Their next of kin had been informed, but the victims had yet to be officially named last night.

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Mr Rennie survived and was stable in hospital last night. The only other survivor was the Egyptian pilot.

The launch site near Luxor in Egypt, prior to a hot air balloon explosion which killed 19 tourists

A foreign Office spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with them and their families at this difficult time.”

The other victims are understood to be from France, China and Japan.

The British passengers were on holiday with tour operator 
Thomas Cook, whose chief executive Peter Fankhauser described the incident as a “terrible tragedy”.

“The thoughts of everyone in Thomas Cook are with our guests, their family and friends,” he said.

A victim of a ballon accident is seen in a body bag lying on a dirt road near the scene of a crash outside al-Dhabaa village just west of the city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 19 foreign tourists, a security official said. (AP Photo/Hagag Salama, File)

Neighbours of the couples last night spoke of their shock at hearing they had been caught up in the tragedy.

Mr and Mrs Rennie’s next-door neighbour Linda Kettles said they were “very, very nice people”.

“I’m totally devastated by the news. I really feel for their families,” she said.

Egyptians gather near the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor
Egyptians gather near the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor