Friday, April 25, 2008


A Tragedy Foretold

Sometimes you read something in the news that catches your attention, and makes you stop and rewind to make sure you saw/heard it right.

Several days ago I came across a news item about a priest in Brazil who tied a thousand shiny helium party balloons to a chair and lifted off in an attempt to set a new world's record for time and distance aloft (the current record is 19 hours). His previous attempt in January using 600 balloons carried him above 17,000 feet and lasted four hours. He landed safely that time.

Well, this time, the winds carried him out over the Atlantic where he soon lost radio contact. A massive search and rescue turned up several bunches of deflated balloons floating in the water, miles from shore. But no trace of the priest.

A paraglider instructor who'd given the priest lessons several years ago called the priest's disappearance "a tragedy foretold". He explained that he warned the priest that his personality traits - headstrong, anxious, always in a rush to get things done - were not the ideal profile for a paraglider, so what has happened now comes as no big surprise.

Apparently this all stems from the guy in LA who made the first balloon/lawnchair flight many years ago. The stunt fired the imagination of lots of people in South America (for some reason), causing many to attempt to replicate this feat.

Later, I googled the phrase and found it used several times (most recently, in reference to Bhutto's assassination last December). Oh well.

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