ROME - The bodies of two champion American balloonists and their gondola were found in the net of an Italian fishing boat Monday, two months after they disappeared while competing in a race over the Adriatic Sea during a fierce storm.
The boat hauled in the balloon and its gondola with the bodies 11 miles north of Vieste, said Port Cmdr. Guido Limongelli in the town on the spur of boot-shaped Italy.
He said documents found in the gondola confirmed the identities of Richard Abruzzo, 47, of Albuquerque, N.M., and Carol Rymer Davis, 65, of Denver.
The two had been participating in the 54th Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race when contact was lost Sept. 29 as they flew during a storm. They had taken off with 20 other balloons from Bristol, England, on Sept. 25.
Search crews looked for the veteran balloonists in vain for a week before determining that their craft had plunged toward the water at 50 m.p.h. and they likely did not survive.
Shortly after midnight Monday, the crew aboard the fishing vessel Sharon felt "something pulling the net, so we realized there was something not right in the net," the boat's captain, Domenico Castriotta, told Sky TG24 TV.
The gondola appeared to be remarkably intact despite the impact. The Sharon notified port officials, who sent out a patrol boat to escort the vessel to port, Limongelli said.
Abruzzo and Davis won the 2004 edition of the Gordon Bennett race and the 2003 America's Challenge gas race - one of Abruzzo's five victories in that contest.