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GDR Resident Dies During Escape Attempt with Home-Made Gas Balloon


GDR Resident Dies During Escape Attempt with Home-Made Gas Balloon

Body found in Zehlendorf; Police searching for second victim.

A 32-year-old East German Male, who crossed over the border early yesterday into the southern part of the city (into Zehlendorf) hanging from a home-made gass balloon, apparently fell to his death. The body of a man identified as Winfried Freudenberg was found at approx. 3:00PM by residents in bushes of a garden in Limastrasse. About eight hours earlier, at around 07:50AM, wittnesses saw the unmanned balloon go down into a tree on the corner of Potsdamer Chaussee and Spanische Allee. The balloon had a diameter of more than ten meters. Police further reported in the evening that items found at the garden in Zehlendorf lead them to believe that one more person, presumably the wife of the victim, may have been with him in the baloon. Police did not provide any further information, but asked for the assistance of residents to search for a possible second victim.

A home-made passenger frame had been connected to the balloon with belts and string. The refugee most likely lost his grip and fell. Following a preliminary examination of the body, a police inspector determined that there were injuries that indicated a fall from very high up. An autopsy should determine the exact cause of death.
The balloon had been glued together from individual pieces of sheet plastic. It is not yet known what gas was used in the balloon. There was a jacket attached to the frame—size 94, made in the GDR; and also two bags and a plastic bag. These contained personal items, among other things.
Among these items were several chemistry books, a box of cassettes that had been used to record pop music, and a sliderule in a plastic case that was stamped with "USSR." A second bag contained sand that was apparently to be used as ballast, and also a container with medication that—according to a representative of the company "arznei-telgramm"—is used in cases of chronic bronchitis.
Around noon, a resident of Schlachtensee discovered the ID booklet of the victim in a garden in Salachstrasse. This identifies him as a 32-year-old man whose last legal residency was reported as being in East Berlin. His place of birth is listed as Halberstadt. Shortly before his escape attempt, he had withdrawn a large sum of money from his savings account at a bank branch in Luetgenrode, near Halberstadt. The bank booklet and a considerable amount of cash were among personal items discovered on the body.

Police spokesman Jörg Müller showed journalists items that were found in Zehlendorf at the crash site of the balloon man, who suffered a fatal accident during his escape.

The vehicle registration and driver's license of the refugee were also found at a residence in Salzachstraße late afternoon, yesterday.


Wife of man who fell to his death during his balloon escape is alive.
The 32-year-old man had flown all over Berlin when the buttons on his jacket ripped off.
Flight Path:
1) Presumed start near Glienicke
2) Throwing off balast near Tegel Airport
3) Crash site in Zehlendorf

Crash-Victim Winfried Freudenberg: He escaped alone, left his wife in East Berlin.

Berlin, March 10th
New information concerning the tragic balloon escape attempt to West Berlin.

Number 1: 32-year-old Winfried Freudenberg was probably so poorly secured to his home-made belt-system that his leather jacket slipped during his flight over West Berlin and he fell to his death.

Number 2: Sabine Freudenberg, the 20-year-old wife of the balloon refugee, is alive! This was confirmed by a five-line report released by the East Berlin news agency ADN. The ADN report avoided the word "escape." East Berlin TV did now show the wife during the evening news.
On the day of the balloon tragedy, authorities in West Berlin thought that the wife of the refugee may have been in the balloon because some of her clothing and her car registration had been found in West Berlin.

Number 3: Despite a south-easterly wind at the time of the escape, the balloon apparently entered West Berlin over the Wall from the north of the city.
Chief of Detectives Hans Kaiser, director of the Office of State Protection:
The balloon may have come from the area around Glienicke—north of Frohnau. It passed Tegel Airport, Teufelsberg, and went down in Zehlendorf.
The man's birth certificate and several ballast sand bags were found at the south-western corner of Tegel Airport. The balloonist fell to his death over Limastraße in Zehlendorf, the balloon itself continued south, was blown back and landed on Potsdamer Chaußee at around 7:50.

Kai Brüggemann, 33-year-old meteorologist with the Free University: "On the ground, the wind was coming from south-southeast, easterly winds were registered up to an altitude of 2000 meters, and at an altitude of 3000 meters there was a north wind that was clocked at 5 to 10 meters per second."

Number 4: Experts are now trying to determine what gas was used to give buoyancy to the balloon, which was assembled from plastic sheets—and what method of landing system the balloon was supposed to be use. The balloon was probably not using hot air: no burners were found.