Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Priest blown away

A Catholic priest who floated away under hundreds of helium balloons in a bid to raise money for his parish is missing off Brazil. Only pieces of the party balloons have been found by searchers looking for Reverend Adelir Antonio de Carli off the coast of Santa Catarina state, the Associated Press reported.

Mr de Carli, 41, lifted off from the port city of Paranagua yesterday afternoon wearing a helmet, thermal suit and a parachute.

He was reported missing about eight hours later after losing contact with port authority officials, according to the treasurer of his Sao Cristovao parish, Denise Gallas.

Mr di Carli had been trying to break a 19-hour record for flying with balloons to raise money for a spiritual rest-stop for truckers in Paranagua, Brazil's second-largest port for agricultural products.

A video of Mr di Carli posted on the G1 website of Globo TV showed the smiling 41-year-old priest slipping into a flight suit, being strapped to a seat attached to a huge column green, red, white and yellow balloons, and soaring into the air to the cheers of a crowd.

He soared to an altitude of 6000m then descended to about 2500m for his flight to the city of Dourados, 750km northwest of his parish.

But winds pushed him out to sea and Mr di Carli was 50km off the coast when he last contacted Paranagua's port authority, Ms Gallas said.

Mr di Carli had a GPS device, a satellite phone, a buoyant chair and was an experienced skydiver, she said.

"We are absolutely confident he will be found alive and well, floating somewhere in the ocean," she said.

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