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Wed, Sep 29, 2010

Gordon Bennett Balloon Racers Reported Missing

Nightfall Inhibits Continued Searches Until Morning

The news coming to ANN from the Gordon Bennett Control Centre is not good. A balloon flying in the Gordon Bennett race designated USA2, registration N801NM, is still missing as night falls. The pilots listed on board have been identified as American citizens, Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer-Davis.

54th Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett Flight Director, Don Cameron, reports that at 05.58Z this morning (29th September), "we received the last signal from the tracker device, which normally gives us the balloon position every 15 minutes. (This position is shown on the race's web site). We were contacted around that time also by Brindisi Air Traffic Control who had lost contact with the balloon. Mr. Luc Trullemans, meteorologist, has had a conversation with one of the pilots at 06.05Z. No contact has been established since. The balloon is equipped with satellite telephone, VHF radios, radar transponder and two mobile telephones. It has not been possible to make contact on any of these. Thunderstorms were present in the area."

Gordon Bennett Race Launch
(Gordon Bennett Race Photo)

A search and rescue operation has been launched by the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) involving several aircraft and a fast patrol boat. The Croatian authorities and all shipping in the area have also been notified. Nothing has been found so far and no signal has been detected from the Emergency Location Transmitter, which should activate on contact with water. Gordon Bennett officials have been able to supply the MRCC with some information on the safety equipment carried and technical aspects of the balloon. The balloon is equipped with survival suits, lifejackets and two single-person life rafts.

Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer-Davis
(Gordon Bennett Race Photo)

Cameron notes that, "Nineteen other balloons were flying in the event and we have confirmation that all of these have landed safely and all other pilots are safe and well. We are hoping that good news will come, but are becoming increasingly concerned as nightfall approaches. We are in close contact with Richard and Carol's families.

The search will be scaled down overnight, but will be resumed at first light. There will be no further bulletins until the search resumes on Thursday.

FMI: www.gordonbennett2010.com

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