U.S. Team Missing In Balloon Race
American gas-balloon pilots Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer Davis went missing over the Adriatic Sea, between Italy and Croatia, on Wednesday morning, and as night fell rescuers had turned up no sign of them. The two pilots are competing in the annual Gordon Bennett International Gas Balloon Race, which launched from southern England on Saturday night. As of Wednesday morning all the other 19 teams, including two from the U.S., had landed safely. Ground crews and air traffic control both lost communication with the missing pilots about the same time, and no emergency signals have been detected. Thunderstorms and rough seas were reported in the area.
"The balloon is equipped with satellite telephone, VHF radios, radar transponder and two mobile telephones," the race organizers said on Wednesday evening. "It has not been possible to make contact on any of these.... [We] are becoming increasingly concerned as nightfall approaches." The search will be scaled down overnight, but will be resumed at first light. Abruzzo is the son of Ben Abruzzo, who was a crew member aboard the Double Eagle II, the first balloon to cross the Atlantic. He is a competitive balloon pilot who has set numerous records and won many awards. Rymer Davis began flying balloons in 1973, and holds several distance and duration records. The two have flown together in many competitions, and they won the Gordon Bennett race in 2004. Their balloon is equipped with survival suits, life jackets and two single-person life rafts.