Priest disappears on helium balloon flight

A priest who floated into the sky under hundreds of helium-filled party balloons has gone missing off the southern coast of Brazil.

Rescuers in helicopters and small fishing boats were searching off the coast of Santa Catarina state, where pieces of balloons were found.

Rev Adelir Antonio de Carli took off from the port city of Paranagua on Sunday afternoon, wearing a helmet, thermal suit and a parachute.

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

Report, in Portuguese, on the priest’s take-off and the subsequent search for him.

The 41-year-old priest wanted to break a 19-hour record for the longest period aloft with balloons, to raise money for a spiritual rest-stop for truckers in the Brazilian port of Paranagua.

Some American adventurers have used helium balloons to emulate Larry Walters – who in 1982 rose three miles above Los Angeles in a garden chair lifted by balloons.

A video of the priest shown on Brazilian news showed the smiling padre slipping into a flight suit, being strapped to a seat attached to a huge column of green, red, white and yellow balloons, and soaring into the air to the cheers of a crowd.

Miss Gallas said he priest soared to an altitude of 20,000 feet then descended to about 8,200 feet for his planned flight to the city of Dourados, 465 miles north west of his parish.

But winds pushed him in another direction, and the priest was about 30 miles off the coast when he last contacted Paranagua’s port authority, she said.

He had a GPS device, a satellite phone, a buoyant chair and is an experienced skydiver.

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

“He knew what he was doing and was fully prepared for any kind of mishap.”

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