Fri, Oct 03, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Search team finds likely Fossett aircraft wreckage

AP , MAMMOTH LAKES, CALIFORNIA

The late adventurer Steve Fossett walks across a windy runway to the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer at the Salina Municipal Airport in Salina, Kansas on Feb. 28, 2005.

PHOTO: AP

Search teams combing a rugged part of eastern California for any sign of Steve Fossett, the adventurer who vanished on a solo flight more than a year ago, have spotted what appeared to be wreckage, authorities said.

Erica Stuart, spokeswoman for the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, would not reveal the exact location of the reported aerial sighting, which she said was called in around sunset on Wednesday.

Searchers had been combing a 16km radius around the spot where a hiker had found what appeared to be a pilot’s license and other items belonging to Fossett earlier in the week.

A ground team was en route to the site on Wednesday night, and authorities would be able to confirm there is actual wreckage and whether it belongs to Fossett yesterday morning, Stuart said.

Authorities, however, cautioned that hundreds of planes have gone down in the mountainous region, so any wreckage found could belong to other cases.

The hiker, Preston Morrow, said he found a pilot’s license, a glider license, a third ID and US$1,005 in cash tangled in a bush off a trail just west of the town of Mammoth Lakes on Monday. He said he turned the items over to local police on Wednesday after unsuccessful attempts to contact Fossett’s family.

The information on the pilot license — including Fossett’s name, address, date of birth and certificate number — matched Federal Aviation Administration’s records, spokesman Ian Gregor said.

“We’re trying to determine the authenticity of the document,” Gregor said.

Search teams led by the Madera County Sheriff’s Department went to the scene of the find on Wednesday but found no sign of a plane or any human remains.

Fossett, whose exploits included circumnavigating the globe in a balloon, disappeared on Sept. 3 last year after taking off in a single-engine plane borrowed from a Nevada ranch owned by hotel magnate Barron Hilton. A judge declared Fossett legally dead in February following a search for the famed aviator that covered 51,800km².

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