FITZGERALD, Ga. (AP) — Crews are planning to resume searching woods in south Georgia for the pilot of a hot air balloon that crashed in a weekend thunderstorm.
Sheriff Bobby McLemore said 63-year-old Edward Ristaino of Cornelius, N.C., took five skydivers into the air during a festival Friday in the city of Fitzgerald in rural Ben Hill County. A storm struck while they were up.
Ristaino told the skydivers to jump from the balloon. None were injured.
One of the skydivers, 30-year-old Jessica Wesnofske, told The Charlotte Observer the pilot saved their lives. She said if he had waited another minute, the skydivers would have been in the storm.
The sheriff said strong winds then forced the balloon up to about 18,000 feet before it collapsed and plummeted to the ground.