Man floats 11,000 feet supported only by toy balloons

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The Independent Online

An adrenalin sports junkie claimed a world record yesterday when he floated to 11,000 feet (3,350 metres) above the Cambridgeshire countryside with the aid of 600 balloons.

Ian Ashpole, 46, gained a bird's eye view of the Fens before having to parachute to safety as the helium-filled balloons, measuring 4ft across, began to burst "like machine-guns firing".

Mr Ashpole, the owner of an aerial photography company who lists bungee jumping, sky-diving and tightrope walking among his hobbies, described the flight as "one of the best three I've ever done".

Inspired by the 1956 Oscar-winning film The Red Balloon, he launched his attempt from the relative safety of a hot air balloon at 5,000 feet. On stepping off the platform he climbed a further 6,000 feet in six minutes – beating his previous best achieved at 10,000 feet over his home in Ross-on-Wye in 1998.

He said: "The one worrying moment came when I released myself from the support balloon and began to spin quite dramatically. It got to a point where a lot of balloons were starting to burst and I cut myself free."

It remained unclear whether Mr Ashpole's claim on a world record would receive the official approval of the Guinness Book of Records. A spokesman said: "The wording would be difficult but we are happy to entertain a claim to see if it is a record."

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