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French parachutist: 'I'm not about to give up'

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  • NEW: Parachutist Michel Fournier promises to try record jump again
  • Balloon escapes as French skydiver attempts free fall record
  • Tuesday's attempt thwarted when an electrical charge broke important cable
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(CNN) -- French parachutist Michel Fournier vowed Tuesday to try again to launch a record-breaking skydive in August, hours after a "freak" accident over Canada aborted his second attempt to do so.

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Michel Fournier tests his equipment a few days before his attempt to break four world records.

"I'm not about to give up," the 64-year-old adventurer said of his shot at setting a world record for the highest jump and fastest, longest free fall by a man riding a balloon.

Tuesday's attempt was thwarted when an electrical charge broke the cable connecting the balloon to the gondola, causing it to slip away from his ground crew and rise into the Saskatchewan skies over North Battleford.

"The question is, why was it electrically activated?" said Michel Chevalet, a balloon expert working on Fournier's technical team.

He suggested that static electricity may have been to blame but that it had been an unforeseen possibility. "Unexpected freak accidents do happen," he said. Video Watch report on Michel Fournier's failed free-fall quest »

Fournier said the failure came as a blow. "It was like having a hammer over the head," he said. Video Watch Fournier talk about trying again »

The former paratrooper had hoped his "Big Jump" would start 40 kilometers (25 miles) above the Earth's surface.

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But his hopes dissipated over the Canadian prairie shortly after 5 a.m. (7 a.m. ET), when the balloon took off before his capsule could be attached.

Still clad in his bright yellow pressure suit, a visibly frustrated Fournier waved away cameras after his balloon's abrupt departure. It drifted back to the ground about 40 km away.

Fournier says he spent nearly 12.7 million euros ($20 million) on his quest, a risky endeavor that French authorities refused to allow him to attempt over France. Canadian authorities approved the mission over the town of North Battleford, in sparsely populated Saskatchewan.

The town's mayor, Julian Sadlowski, said Monday's failure was "a disappointment."

"I thought this was going to be the day that we saw history made in the Battlefords," he said.

Balloon trouble also doomed Fournier's effort to break the record in 2003.

Fournier holds the French record for the highest parachute jump at 12,000 meters (40,000 feet). He says his next chance is in August because that is when the jet stream will next be favorable.

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The "Big Jump" will collect data that will help astronauts and others survive at high altitudes, he says.

Fournier estimated that Tuesday's failed effort cost him and his sponsors about 600,000 euros ($946,000).

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