.- A priest in Brazil has come up with a novel way to raise money for a roadside chapel meant to provide spiritual assistance to truckers—trying to break a flight time record using 1,000 helium party balloons. According to news reports, the enterprising Fr. Adelir de Carli has gone missing off the southern coast of Brazil.
The 41 year-old priest, who is an experienced skydiver, was equipped with a parachute, a thermal suit, a satellite phone, and a GPS device. He lifted off from the port city of Paranagua on Sunday. The priest’s craft also had a buoyant chair.
Aspiring to break a 19-hour record for the most hours flying with balloons, Father Carli hoped to raise money to fund a spiritual rest stop for truck drivers in Paranagua, a major agricultural port.
In a phone interview with a Brazilian TV channel on Sunday, Father Carli said he was having difficulty operating the GPS and was “very cold, but fine.”
He reportedly reached an altitude of 20,000 feet, then descended to about 8,200 feet for his flight to the city of Dourados.
He was blown off course by winds. When last contacted, he was floating several miles off the coast. Before losing contact, he said he was “losing height” and had to land in the sea.
Planes and helicopters from the Brazilian air force and ships of the Brazilian navy are searching the waters off the coast of the state of Santa Catarina, where pieces of balloons were found on a beach.
"We are absolutely confident he will be found alive and well, floating somewhere in the ocean," parish treasurer Denise Gallas told the Associated Press.
"He knew what he was doing and was fully prepared for any kind of mishap," she said.
In January, the priest made a similar 70-mile flight in four hours.