June 20, 2018
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Italy’s coast guard hunting for balloonist with Maine ties

The Associated Press

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

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 (35,300 cubic feet) of gas.

In 1992, Abruzzo competed in the first trans-Atlantic balloon race, which originated in Bangor, Maine. His late father, Ben Abruzzo, was a member of the three-man crew that made the first successful trans-Atlantic crossing in a helium balloon, flying from Presque Isle, Maine, to Misery, France, in 1978.

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 at 8 a.m. local time Wednesday. 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 was also 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, winning the 2006 America’s Challenge gas balloon race by traveling 1,478 miles (2,378 kilometers) from the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

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