By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
After six days of searching, the Italian Coast Guard on Monday called off its efforts to find missing U.S. balloon pilots Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer Davis. The two, who were competing in the Gordon Bennett International Gas Balloon Race, went missing on the morning of Sept. 29 while flying over the Adriatic Sea. An analysis of radar data has shown that the hydrogen balloon appeared to be plummeting toward the sea at a rate of 50 mph before contact was lost. Rough seas and thunderstorms were reported in the area at the time. No ELT signals or other distress signals have been received. Searchers scoured the presumed impact area with boats, aircraft, divers and an underwater robotic vehicle, but failed to turn up any sign of the aircraft or its crew.
After the announcement that the search would end, Richard Abruzzo's wife, Nancy, told KOB News of Albuquerque that she is returning from Italy to be with her children, but added that she remains confident the search will continue in an unofficial capacity. "As I get ready to leave, it gives me great comfort in knowing this is a populated area and the admiral we've been working with is passionate about finding some answers," she said. Richard Abruzzo, 47, of Albuquerque, was an accomplished balloonist who had won many races and awards in his career. He was the son of the late Ben Abruzzo, a crew member aboard the Double Eagle II, the first balloon to cross the Atlantic. Rymer Davis, 65, lived in Denver, where she worked as a radiologist. They won the Gordon Bennett race together in 2004.