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Final message of missing U.S. balloonists disclosed

posted 2 Oct 2010, 06:47 by Mpelembe   [ updated 2 Oct 2010, 07:06 ]

Italian coastguards searching for two U.S. balloonists missing for four days in the area of the Adriatic Sea have disclosed they received a final voice message on Wednesday (Sep. 29) saying, in the words of a senior coastguard officer, they were "going down quite fast towards the sea."

Italian coastguards say their radar records pinpoint the location of their last contact with the missing U.S. balloonists craft, which also matches in time their last radio communication.

Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer Davis have been missing for four days when they vanished from contact while taking part in the Gordon Bennett Cup, a hot air balloon race; they were flying over the Adriatic Sea in rough weather conditions.

Italian coastguard admiral Salvatore Giuffre'said: "we have some radar records from three different sources all locating the last contact with the balloon in the same point, which corresponds to the last radio contact that the pilot had with the coastguard of Brindisi."

On Friday, during afternoon searches over the Adriatic, debris which was spotted in the water was brought ashore for further investigation. It is not yet confirmed if it is connected with the hot air balloon.

Despite the potentially ominous signs, family members of Richard Abruzzo at the coastguard centre in Bari remained upbeat about the continuing search. As Richard's wife Nancy put it, albeit before Giuffre spoke about the radar records, " lots of activity is occurring here at the rescue centre, lots of new questions to answer, very good new information is coming in, we're researching new areas, we have expanded a land search, so all very, very, very hopeful."

Abruzzo and Davis are considered experienced balloonists. In 2004 they won the same Gordon Bennett Cup, considered a prestigious endurance race among followers of the sport.