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On September 29, 2010 Carol Rymer Davis and Richard Abruzzo the team competing in the Gordon Bennett International Gas Balloon Race went missing. The balloon was last reported flying over the Adriatic Sea in thunderstorms and rough seas at the time.
It was not until two months later that an Italian fishing boat hulled in the gondola with the remains of the two aeronauts still aboard ending the search for two amazing competitors and balloonists. The National Transportation Safety Board released a report that the balloon was struck by lightning based on examination of the aircraft.
Dr. Carol Rymer Davis was a previous recorded holder for – altitude, distance, and duration – for class AX-5 hot-air balloons. She held the absolute altitude record for women in any size balloon for 15 years. Carol is a two-time Montgolfier Diploma recipient, won the Harmon Trophy, and in 2005 received the NAA Stinson Award and the Federation Aeronautique International’s Sabhia Gokcen (Grotchen) medal. Both awards are given for the most outstanding performance of the year by a woman in any form of aviation. She is a former Balloon Federation of America Board Member, Treasurer, and Vice President and was the Balloon Fiesta’s chief safety official in 1991.Richard Abruzzo was the son of Ben Abruzzo, the legendary balloonist who completed the first manned transatlantic balloon crossing in 1978 and the first manned transpacific crossing in 1981. In 1992, Richard competed with Troy Bradley in the Chrysler Transatlantic Challenge race, setting a world record for duration and making the first balloon crossing from the USA to Africa. He is a former national gas balloon champion and has set numerous world records in gas balloons. His many honors include the Federation Aeronautique International De La Vaulx Medal, the Balloon Federation of America Shields-Trauger Award, and the Montgolfier Diploma.
He is a three-time winner of the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) Harmon Trophy. He served on the Balloon Fiesta board of directors and is the current chair of the Board of Trustees of the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum.
The Gordon Bennett Cup (or Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett) is the world’s oldest gas balloon race, and is “regarded as the premier event for world balloon racing”. The first race started from Paris, France, on September 30, 1906. The event was sponsored by James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the millionaire sportsman and owner of the New York Herald newspaper. According to the organizers, the aim of the contest “is simple: to fly the furthest distance from the launch site.” The contest ran from 1906 to 1938, interrupted by World War I and in 1931, but was suspended in 1939 when the hosts, Poland, were invaded at the start of World War II. The event was not resurrected until 1979, when American Tom Heinsheimer, an atmospheric physicist, gained permission from the holders to host the trophy. The competition was not officially reinstated by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) until 1983.
The Balloon Federation of America Gas Division has agreed to co-sponsor with the German Gordon Bennett delegation led by Wilhelm Eimers, a commemorative pin in memory of Carol Rymer Davis and Richard Abruzzo. In cooperation with the German delegation, in as much as it is in our power, these pins are not to be resold or used for commercial purposes.