Balloonist in good spirits after rescue
Tuesday 18 August 1998
He dropped thousands of yards into what are believed to be uncharted waters about 500 miles north-east of Australia on Sunday night, ending his hopes of becoming the first balloonist to circumnavigate the globe non-stop.
An Australian yacht, the Atlanta, picked him up and reported he was in good spirits.
He had been hoping to land later this week in Argentina, from where he took off in Solo Spirit, on 8 August. On Saturday, he passed over the coast of Western Australia above Geraldton after crossing the Indian Ocean. He spent the weekend crossing the continent in record time, helped by strong winds that sped him at up to 140 miles an hour.
But on Sunday night, after Fossett left Australia over Gladstone, in Queensland, disaster struck. Reports reaching Australia's search and rescue centre in Canberra yesterday indicated that Solo Spirit was struck by lightning as it headed over the Coral Sea. He was lucky it happened so close to Australia and not in the middle of the Pacific, where he could have been stranded for days.
The Canberra rescue centre picked up emergency calls from two beacons at 2am yesterday, almost as soon as the balloon hit the water. Brian Hill, of the rescue centre, said: "We were able to direct the aircraft and ships to within six kilometres of where he was."
The Atlanta, skippered by Laurie Piper, was on the way to Australia when a radio ham in Vanuatu, the archipelego north of the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia, raised the alert.
The Atlanta was pulled into an international rescue effort that included an Australian air force Hercules and two Orion aircraft, a commercial container ship, the Papuan Chief, French military aircraft and a New Zealand tanker.
The French aircraft dropped a raft with food and water to Mr Fossett, to which he transferred yesterday from the precariously floating gondola of his balloon.
After boarding the Atlanta, he was expected to be transferred to the New Zealand ship, which is to take him to Townsville, in north Queensland, later this week. The Australian Hercules and Orions were circling over him late yesterday.
At the Solo Spirit's mission control centre in St Louis, Missouri, Marie Singleman, one of the staff monitoring its journey, said yesterday: "He's got to be scared to death. Steve made arrangements before the flight that if two of his emergency locators went off, then he was in real trouble. I just breathed a sigh of relief when I heard he'd been found. I feel the weight of the world is off my shoulders. I was terrified."
The journey was not all in vain. Before the crash, Mr Fossett, 54, a stockbroker from Chicago, became the first person to cross the Indian and South Atlantic Oceans by balloon. It is not known what will happen now to the prize money of $1 million that Budweiser, the brewer, had offered if he had completed the journey successfully. The money was to be split equally between Mr Fossett and the Washington University in St Louis.
Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Wreckage could be found within a week as search reaches 'very critical juncture', says minister
Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
Royal Tour 2014: Is the Duchess of Cambridge the only person ever to climb into a fighter jet wearing a dress and high heels?
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 1 Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 How We Met: Alison Moyet & Emma Kennedy: 'I knew we'd be friends because she was happy to make a prat of herself'
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...