British survivor leaped from balloon
Published - Feb 28 2013
(The Associated Press)
Foreign tourists visit Hatshepsut Temple, in Luxor, Egypt, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. Nineteen people were killed Tuesday in what appeared to be the deadliest hot air ballooning accident on record. The tragedy raised worries of another blow to the nation's vital tourism industry, decimated by two years of unrest since the 2011 revolution that toppled autocratHosni Mubarak. The southern city of Luxor has been hit hard, with vacant hotel rooms and empty cruise ships.(AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's lead investigator said Thursday he is seeking to interview the only tourist who survived the crash of a hot air balloon in the southern city of Luxor, a British national who jumped from the balloon after it caught fire and before it plummeted to the ground, killing 19 others, including his wife.
The Briton, Michael Rennie, escaped with only minor injuries and no burns, a neurologist who is treating him at a Cairo hospital, Mahmoud el-Shennawy, told The Associated Press.
The only other survivor — the balloon's Egyptian pilot, who also jumped out — suffered heavy burns.
The sightseeing balloon on a sunrise flight Tuesday over the ancient monuments of Luxor was carrying 20 tourists from Britain, Hong Kong, Japan, Belgium, Hungary and France. It was in the process of landing when a fuel line for the burner heating the air in the balloon broke, sparking a fire, according to preliminary indications, investigators have said.
Rennie and the Egyptian pilot, Momin Murad, managed to escape the balloon's gondola when it was still relatively close to the ground. The balloon then rose back up some 300 meters (1,000 feet) into the air. The fire spread to the balloon itself, which burst, sending it plummeting into a sugar cane field.
Witnesses have said some of the tourists still trapped in the burning balloon as it rose jumped to their deaths trying to escape.
Amateur video taken from another balloon flying nearby shows it crashing back to the earth like a fireball into a sugar cane field.
El-Shennawy said Rennie is expected to be released Friday and will head straight to the airport.
"Some psychiatrists, and myself, talked with him. He seems to be accepting the situation," he said.