US balloonists plunged at 50 mph, likely dead

BARI, Italy — Two missing American balloonists plunged toward the Adriatic Sea at 50 mph (80 kph) and likely did not survive, race organizers said Firday .
Flight director Don Cameron said that high rate of descent, if confirmed, leads him to be "very pessimistic" about the fate of veteran pilots Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer Davis.
Abruzzo, 47, of Albuquerque, New Mexico and Davis, 65, of Denver, Colorado, were participating in the 54th Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race when contact was lost Wednesday morning in rough weather over the Adriatic Sea.
Race organizers said the balloon "appears to have suffered a sudden and unexpected failure."
"It's very bad news," Cameron said.
Cameron said he received information Friday from Zagreb's air traffic control indicating the balloon was at 5,300 feet (1,615 meters) and descended slowly at first but then at a rate of 50 mph until 600 feet (180 meters).
"At this rate of descent to the surface, survival would be unlikely," the race organizers said in a statement.
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