Italy balloon race couple, likely dead


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Rome, Italy (CNN) -- Race organizers Friday said a balloon carrying two missing Americans over the Adriatic Sea off Italy made a rapid descent during rough weather, conditions which would make their survival "unlikely."

"This is very pessimistic information," says the statement from the race organization -- Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett.

Race officials from the the international gas-balloon competition said they lost contact with the balloon of Richard Abruzzo of New Mexico and Dr. Carol Rymer-Davis of Colorado as it was over the sea shortly after 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET) Wednesday.

Officials looked at transponder readings from air traffic control and made calculations from the height of the balloon, the time and its location, said flight director Don Cameron. The data showed the balloon had a "moderate descent rate initially which then increased into a high rate of descent, to around 50 miles per hour."

The search for the pair continued Friday as Italian authorities took photos of debris found in the sea and forwarded them.

The 20-balloon race began Saturday night near Bristol, England, with pilots vying to fly the farthest from the start point. The balloons flew over the English Channel and continued south across France, with most of the balloons ending up landing in France or northern Spain.

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