Balloonist in good spirits after rescue

STEVE FOSSETT, the American millionaire adventurer, was picked up by an Australian yacht yesterday after his round-the-world balloon was apparently struck by lightning and ditched in the Coral Sea.

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.

New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

** Secondary History Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Secondary Geography Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments