Searches for balloonists Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer Davis, lost when their hydrogen-filled balloon likely encountered over the Adriatic Sea the morning of 29 September, turned up zilch.
A preliminary report by the US NTSB on the accident shows that the sport most people think of as soft and silent can sometimes turn polar opposite.
Abruzzo and Rymer Davis, accomplished balloonists both, according to the NTSB, were four days into the Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett 2010 international gas balloon race with N801NM (pictured left). "A range of meteorological conditions prevailed over the 4 days of flight that originated at Bristol, England" on 25 September, the agency writes. That's putting it mildly.
"According to the Italian Agenzia Nazionale Per La Scurezza del Volo (ANSV), the last radio contact between the Brindisi, Italy, air traffic control center and the balloon occurred at 0558 (Universal Time, which was about 07:58am local time)," the NTSB says in the report. "The target identified as the missing balloon was descending at a high rate when it was lost." News stories revealed that the "high rate" was approximately 50mph.
The NTSB says the Italian Coast Guard coordinated a six-day search using their ships, US Navy aircraft, and a remotely-piloted underwater vehicle. "No evidence of the balloon or its crew was discovered," the agency says.
What weather brought the plane down?
According to a senior NTSB meteorologist, infrared and visible satellite images at 0600 UTC that morning showed "an area of cumulonimbus clouds developing in the vicinity of the last coordinates" with cloud tops in the range of 25,000ft to 26,000ft.
"The visible imagery indicated some signs of transverse banding on top of the anvil, which also implied strong vertical shears, turbulence, and thunderstorms in the area," says the NTSB.