The story of a legendary Albuquerque balloonist is living on through a new documentary. Nearly nine years after Richard Abruzzo was killed in a traffic ballooning accident, his family is watching his passion play out on the big screen.
“Oh, he was easy to love. We were cut from the same cloth. We just enjoyed living life,” said Nancy Abruzzo, Richard’s wife.
Abruzzo is taken back to 2005, watching footage of her husband ballooning in a new documentary. “It brings a lot of joy because it’s there in black and white, and to hear his voice and to see his joy, and to see how cool all the things they were doing and the places that they traveled,” said Abruzzo.
“Wind Riders” follows Abruzzo and his co-pilot Carol Rhymer-Davis on a Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race. Coincidentally, cameras caught their balloon crashing over Kansas.
Abruzzo was seriously injured but recovered. “He walked away with it with a greater existence on earth, I think,” said Abruzzo.
Five years later, the team was involved in another crash off the coast of Italy. This time though, they were not so lucky. Sixty-eight days later, a small fishing boat found their bodies. “I find great comfort in knowing that my children had a father that lived a passionate life and lived a life most of us never get to live,” said Abruzzo.
Abruzzo is glad her husband’s legacy will live on through this documentary. “[I hope] it inspires people to do, in whatever path they choose, to do it fully, passionately,” said Abruzzo.
Though, she says her greatest joy is seeing him in their children. “Personality traits and movements and facial expressions, and you’re like, yeah, he’s here every day. He really is,” said Abruzzo.
“Wind Riders” is set to debut to a select audience at the Manhattan Film Festival this Friday. The world premiere will be in Albuquerque during Balloon Fiesta.