Updated 3/19/12 8:28 pm
The search for Edward Restaino came to a sad end early Monday afternoon. The 63-year-old was last seen Friday taking skydivers up in his hot air balloon.
"Got the confirmation from the air that the balloon and the canopy had been found. They found the basket with the balloon deflated, draped over it and the victim, the operator was in the basket deceased," says Darrell Spradley with Georgia Search and Rescue.
Restaino is hailed as a hero for making sure the skydivers got safely out of the balloon's basket before severe weather struck. A tireless effort went into this four-day search.
Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Search and Rescue, and other policing agencies from surrounding counties took to horses, ATV's and helicopters.
"It's been stressful, these woods are thick and you can't see anything so it really helps to have ATV's and people coming out with horses and all that to assist," says Detective Chad Kimbrough with the Coffee County Sheriff's Office.
Restaino was from Cornelius, North Carolina.
A sheriff says searchers have found the body of a hot-air balloon pilot who went missing after he was hit by a thunderstorm in Georgia.
Ben Hill County Sheriff Bobby McLemore said a helicopter spotted the balloon, and searchers on the ground then found the body 63-year-old Edward Restaino.
A fast-developing thunderstorm sucked in his balloon while he was ferrying skydivers on Friday. They credit Restaino with finding them a field to safely jump into then telling them to get out of the balloon.
Stay connected to MySouthWestGA.com as this story develops and the FOX 31 Newscast at 10 P.M.