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ATLANTA (AP) — Federal investigators say a hot-air balloon pilot who died after taking skydivers up for a jump in Georgia was trying to evade a sudden thunderstorm by climbing over it.

The skydivers floated safely to the ground, but Edward Ristaino’s balloon plummeted to earth after climbing to an estimated 17,000 feet.

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board on Friday says pilot Edward Ristaino told the skydivers to jump, then radioed his ground crew that he would “attempt to get over the storm.”

But shortly after that, as his balloon climbed in the updraft of the storm, he said he didn’t think he could get over it.

The report did not specify a cause for the balloon’s failure.

Ristaino’s body was found three days after the March 16 accident.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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