Egypt balloon tragedy

Death in Egypt stuns teachers and pupils at therapist's school

Special-needs school calls in counsellors and alerts parents after children's trainer and her husband are named among the victims

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 February, 2013, 5:50am

Pupils and staff of a Red Cross special-needs school in Kwun Tong were reeling in shock yesterday after learning that their long-time occupational therapist and her husband died in Egypt's balloon disaster.

Eleni Kwan Pui-man, 37, and her husband, Siu Chi-man, also 37, were among the nine Hongkongers who died in the accident that killed 19 tourists on Tuesday.

Kwan had been helping physically handicapped pupils at the school since 1997, and had become popular among both pupils and colleagues during her 16 years of service.

"We are all shocked to learn about the tragic news, and all of us are deeply saddened," said Lee Cheuk-hong, principal of the Red Cross Margaret Trench School.

Lee said Kwan had been a marathon runner and was an active social-service volunteer. At the school, she was responsible for training pupils to strengthen their muscles.

"She was loved by the pupils and had a very good relationship with other teachers," he said.

The school convened a crisis meeting yesterday, involving a teaching supervisor from the Education Bureau and psychologists from the school and the Red Cross. Lee said they had also called the parents of each pupil to inform them of the tragic news.

Whenever they went on holiday, they always did something different. They were very much in love as a couple

The accident has devastated two other families in Hong Kong. In the Poon family, father Poon Lau-tim, 62, mother To Sau-ching, 58, and daughter Carmen Poon Tak-sze, 33, died. In the Ho family, the casualties were Ho Oi-hing, 54, Ho Oi-ying, 58, Ho Oi-ming, 60, and Tang Yuk-ling, 59.

All but one of the six Hong Kong tour members who did not join the doomed balloon trip are expected to leave Egypt today with their tour guide, also a Hongkonger, and reach home tomorrow, ahead of their previously scheduled return on Sunday.

It is understood that the tourist who has opted to stay was travelling with the Ho family.

Other victims of Tuesday's disaster include Briton Yvonne Rennie, 48. Her husband, Michael Rennie, 49, reportedly jumped to safety as the balloon neared the ground, before it rose back into the sky.

The Sun newspaper in Britain reported how Michael's father, John, 80, broke the news to Yvonne's father.

He said: "Whenever they went on holiday, they always did something different. They were very much in love as a couple. Yvonne was my son's second wife and that was the best move he ever made."

The other victims were Briton Joe Bampton, 40, and his Hungarian-born girlfriend Susanna Gyetvai, 34; French nationals Josiane Couderc and Lea Barreau Couderc; four Japanese from Tokyo in their 60s named as Asakao Terada, Yasuhide Terada, Harumi Tsuge and Kazuo Tsuge; and Egyptian Marwa El Ghabaty.