American balloonists missing

 

LONDON — Coast guards are hunting for a
pair of missing American balloonists last detected piloting their craft over
the Adriatic Sea in rough weather.

Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer
Davis were participating in the 54th Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race, an annual
race in which teams of balloonists try to see who can fly the farthest from a
set point on a maximum of about 1,000 cubic meters of gas.

Abruzzo is the son of famed
balloonist Ben Abruzzo, who was in 1981 part of the first team to cross the
Pacific Ocean by balloon, and who was killed in a small airplane crash in 1985.

Italian coast guards said a search
was under way for the balloon, one of 20 that set off Saturday from the English
coastal city of Bristol. Spokesman Lt. Massimo Maccheroni, said the last signal
received from the balloon’s GPS was Wednesday morning.

 The signal showed the craft was 13 miles off
the Gargano coast in the Adriatic Sea.

He said helicopters, military
aircraft and three boats were taking part in the search. A ground search on the
coast also was under way.

Conditions in the area were
reported to be poor, with rough seas and thunderstorms.

Abruzzo and Davis have competed
together in the past, finishing third in the 2006 America’s Challenge gas
balloon race by travelling 1,478 miles 
from the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Richard Abruzzo’s sister-in-law,
Sandra Abruzzo, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, said she had been told the
balloonists had suffered “an issue with the electrical” components in
the balloon, and speculated that the loss of contact could possibly be related
to that.

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