Cornelius balloonist dies after storm causes crash
by Staff Writer
Ristaino, owner of Lake Norman Balloon Company, was working with a team of skydivers Friday, March 17, at a festival when he took off under blue skies, the Associate Press reported, but storm clouds quickly rolled in.
Ristaino ordered the skydivers out of the balloon after scouting a safe location for them to land.
“If we would have left a minute later, we would have been sucked into the storm,” skydiver Dan Eaton of Augusta, Ga., told the AP.
Investigators believe the storm collapsed the balloon after Ristaino reached between 17,000 and 18,000 feet.
Police searched for two days before locating the balloon and Ristaino’s body in a heavily wooded area.