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Tributes paid to dead balloonists

Tributes have been paid to two American balloonists at the "forefront of ballooning" whose remains were found by a fishing boat in the Adriatic Sea.

Richard Abruzzo, 47, and Carol Rymer Davis, 65, went missing on September 29 after taking part in the 54th Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race.

The race organisers lost contact with them as they were flying between Italy and Croatia, disappearing in thunderstorms.

An Italian port commander said that a fishing boat hauled in the balloon cabin with the bodies still on board, 11 miles north of Vieste in southern Puglia.

He said documents were found in the cabin which confirmed the identities of Abruzzo, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Rymer Davis, from Denver, Colorado.

The Americans were one of 20 teams - from 12 countries - that set off from farmland near Bristol in the annual race.

Race director Clive Bailey said: "This obviously brings a conclusion to what we all thought had sadly happened, but what is most important is it brings closure for the families and they can be laid to rest in an appropriate manner.

"They were both at the forefront of ballooning - winning the 2004 Gordon Bennett race. They were really lovely people and a huge loss to the ballooning fraternity."

Search and rescue teams looked for the pair for nearly a week after loosing contact with the balloon before calling off the search.

A post-mortem examination will be carried out and officials were investigating what might have caused the balloon to crash.

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