Sher­iff: Miss­ing bal­loon pi­lot’s body found

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation -

AT­LANTA | Searchers found the body Mon­day of a hot-air bal­loon pi­lot who went miss­ing af­ter he was hit by a thun­der­storm in Ge­or­gia, a sher­iff said.

A he­li­copter spot­ted the bal­loon, and searchers on the ground then found the body of 63-year-old Ed­ward Ris­taino, Ben Hill County Sher­iff Bobby Mcle­more said.

The bal­loon was found about seven to eight miles east of Fitzger­ald, the sher­iff said. It was draped over the bas­ket con­tain­ing the body in a heav­ily wooded area.

A fast-de­vel­op­ing thun­der­storm sucked in Mr. Ris­taino’s bal­loon while he was fer­ry­ing sky­divers Fri­day, then sent the craft plum­met­ing to­ward the ground. The sky­divers parachuted to safety.

Au­thor­i­ties had used he­li­copters, air­planes, horses and all-ter­rain ve­hi­cles to search the woods in south Ge­or­gia for Mr. Ris­taino.

Two of the sky­divers say Mr. Ris­taino kept them safe by spot­ting a field where they could safely para­chute and telling them to jump as the storm ap­proached.

“If we would have left a minute later, we would have been sucked into the storm,” said sky­diver Dan Ea­ton of Au­gusta, Ga.

He said he didn’t think Mr. Ris­taino’s choice to em­bark on the trip was reck­less. They took off into a blue sky from a fes­ti­val in Fitzger­ald, Ga. From the air, they could see only a fog­like haze that later turned into a fierce thun­der­storm.

The storm “came out of nowhere,” said sky­diver Jes­sica Wesnofske of Cor­nelia, Ga. schoolgirl dead.

NYPD Com­mis­sioner Ray­mond W. Kelly said though there were no spe­cific threats against New York, which has the largest Jewish pop­u­la­tion out­side Is­rael, the po­lice depart­ment de­cided to take the mea­sures as a pre­cau­tion.

“We have to be con­cerned about what hap­pens over­seas,” he said. “We have a sig­nif­i­cant Jewish pop­u­la­tion in this city, and we have to take that into ac­count.

“We know that we’re the top of the ter­ror­ist tar­get list, so we’re con­cerned about the so-called ‘copy­cat syn­drome,’ where some­one might see the events un­fold­ing in Toulouse and take it upon them­selves to act out.”

The lo­ca­tions get­ting ad­di­tional se­cu­rity in­cluded the Mu­seum of Jewish Her­itage in lower Man­hat­tan, the Is­raeli Mis­sion to the United Na­tions in mid­town and the 92nd Street Y on the Up­per East Side. try­ing to freeze the as­sets of mob­ster James “Whitey” Bul­ger’s girl­friend to cover any fine she may be or­dered to pay when she is sen­tenced for help­ing Bul­ger evade au­thor­i­ties for 16 years.

They have asked a judge to or­der a gar­nish­ment of any as­sets be­long­ing to Cather­ine Greig held by East­ern Bank, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

In the fil­ing, As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Christopher Donato says prose­cu­tors be­lieve Greig “holds sig­nif­i­cant as­sets and/or funds.”

Greig pleaded guilty last week to help­ing Bul­ger avoid cap­ture since 1995. Bul­ger has pleaded not guilty to par­tic­i­pat­ing in 19 mur­ders. The cou­ple was cap­tured last sum­mer in Santa Mon­ica, Calif.

Mr. Donato said he be­lieves there’s a strong like­li­hood Greig will be or­dered to pay a fine when she’s sen­tenced in June.

He has asked a judge to or­der any Greig as­set held by East­ern Bank to be paid to the gov­ern­ment if a fine is or­dered.

Dur­ing a hear­ing in U.S. Dis­trict Court on Mon­day, Greig’s at­tor­ney, Kevin Reddington, said Greig does not plan to trans­fer any prop­erty or

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