The only holidaymaker who survived last week's hot-air balloon disaster in Egypt that left nine Hongkongers dead has described the swift, uncontrolled ignition that sparked the tragedy as "hell".
Michael Rennie, who watched from the ground as his wife, Yvonne, died in the flaming balloon, recounted his ordeal to investigators in Egypt, Scottish newspaper The Courier reported.
"It was hell. The balloon went up in flames only three seconds after the gas leak started," the 49-year-old construction worker from Perth, Scotland, was quoted as saying.
"I did not think I would survive the fire. Flames and thick smoke went up all around us and under our feet."
Rennie and the balloon's pilot, Moman Mourad, managed to jump from the stricken balloon before it carried 19 others, including the nine from Hong Kong, to a height of 300 metres over Luxor. It then exploded and plunged into a sugar cane field.
Meanwhile, 10 relatives of the Hong Kong victims who went to Egypt to identify the dead and pay their last respects left Cairo last night and will return to Hong Kong this afternoon. They were seen off at the airport by Chinese Ambassador Song Aiguo, who thanked the Egyptian authorities for their assistance.
Insurance agents acting on behalf of the families expected the victims' bodies to be transported back home in the next few days. The nine Hong Kong bodies are being kept at four hospitals in Cairo.
Most of the 16 members of the government team sent to Egypt will be returning to Hong Kong with the relatives. Two immigration officers are still in Cairo.
It also remained unclear yesterday whether Hong Kong civil aviation officials would join Egypt's official investigation into the accident.
Egyptian officials have said they will consider inviting civil aviation officials from countries with nationals among the victims.
But the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department refused to say if there was any such plan.
A spokeswoman said: "At present, no officials have been sent to Egypt."
The identities of all nine Hong Kong victims were confirmed by the weekend, some visually, while three bodies, too badly disfigured to be recognised, underwent DNA testing in Hong Kong.
The Red Cross Margaret Trench School in Kwun Tong - where victim Eleni Kwan Pui-man worked as an occupational therapist for disabled pupils - held a memorial service on campus yesterday morning.
A photograph of Kwan was put up in the middle of the school hall. Teaching staff took turns to share their feelings about Kwan, and afterwards placed flowers near her picture.