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Wed, Apr 23, 2008

Crews Continue Search For Missing Brazilian Priest

Searchers Reportedly Find Balloonist's Chair

A Brazilian priest and amateur balloonist who was attempting to set a new world record went missing Sunday, and crews say they're continuing their search despite dwindling hope he will be found alive.

CBC News reports the Rev. Adelir Antonio di Carli took off Sunday from the southern city of Paranagua, riding below some 1,000 helium-filled party balloons. If that sounds familiar, it's because a man named Larry Walters -- aka "Lawn Chair Larry" -- attempted a similar feat in 1982, with a few others following suit in the years since.

The reverend intended to break the 19-hour record for human flight, using party balloons. He went missing eight hours after taking off on his journey; crews have since found his chair, but no sign of di Carli.

There are conflicting reports about di Carli's preparedness for his journey. The reverend took off wearing a helmet, waterproof clothes, and a thermal flight suit. He was also wearing a parachute, and planned to use a GPS unit to navigate.

"Given his physical condition and the equipment he was carrying, I would say there is an 80 percent chance that he is still alive," fire commander Johnny Coelho told Globo TV on Monday. The flight was di Carli's second, following a successful four-hour flight in January.

However, as more time has passed, rescuers are reportedly less-optimistic di Carli will be found alive. Also, Barbara Gancia, a reporter with Brazil's Folha de Sao Paolo newspaper, said di Carli may not have been as well-prepared as earlier thought.

"What we're hearing now is that he did not know how to use his equipment, the GPS, and he was ill-prepared for his flight," she said Wednesday, adding winds forced di Carli out to sea, despite his intent to travel inland.

Gancia also says a former flight instructor of di Carli's was highly critical of his plan to go for the record. "He called him undisciplined and an exhibitionist, and he was always bragging about his faith and how his faith was going to carry him and take him safely through his journey," she claims. "And that's not what happened."

FMI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Walters

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