63 Year Old Hot Air Balloonist Edward Ristaino Missing After Crash at Festival in Fitzgerald, GA … Hero, Saved the Lives of 5 Sky Divers (UPDATE: Body Found)
63 year old Edward Ristaino of Cornelius, NC is missing after a hot air balloon accident occurred Friday evening, March 16, at a festival in Fitzgerald, GA. According to accounts, during a thunderstorm strong winds forced the balloon up to about 18,000 feet before it collapsed in a downdraft and plummeted to the ground. Edward Ristaino is being called a hero as he saved the lives of the five skydivers on board the balloon. They jumped from the balloon, all are safe; however, the hot air balloon and Edward Ristaino crashed into the North Georgia woods.
Authorities searched Sunday for a hot air balloon pilot from North Carolina who went missing in the South Georgia woods when his balloon crashed during a weekend thunderstorm.
Ben Hill County Sheriff Bobby McLemore said 63-year-old Edward Ristaino of Cornelius, N.C., was taking five skydivers into the air Friday evening during a festival in Fitzgerald, Ga., when a storm hit.
Ristaino told the skydivers to jump from the balloon. None were injured.
“He saved our lives,” Jessica Wesnofske, 30, one of the skydivers, told The Charlotte Observer. “Another minute, we would have been in the storm with him.”
Erin Daly, whose brother was one of the skydivers, called Ristaino a hero who saved lives.
UPDATE I: Search crews have found the body and the balloon of Edward Ristaino. (VIDEO)