US investigators are looking into a promising lead in an unsolved 1970s skyjacking by the legendary “D.B. Cooper” that points to a man who died 10 years ago, the FBI said on Monday.
If the man — whom investigators declined to identify — is found to be the hijacker, it would mean he lived for about 30 years after parachuting out of a plane at night with US$200,000 in cash before dying of natural causes.
“It’s not so much new information. It retained our attention about one year ago, and we’ve been working on it since then. It’s one of the active leads for that investigation,” FBI spokesman Frederick Gutt said.
“The information we have hasn’t produced inconsistent information, so in that regard it’s still viable, credible and active,” said Gutt, a special agent in the FBI’s Seattle office.
Gutt said the FBI was working with the man’s family to find something it can lift his fingerprints from to compare them to prints found inside the plane.
The man who hijacked a Northwest Orient Airlines jet on Nov. 24, 1971, called himself “Dan Cooper,” but even after FBI agents investigated — and cleared — a man named D.B. Cooper, the latter name stuck in media accounts.
The hijacker ordered the plane — which was on a short flight from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington — to land after claiming to have a bomb and showing a flight attendant a briefcase filled with red cylinders and wires.
When the plane landed in Seattle, the hijacker traded the passengers for US$200,000 and a parachute before ordering the crew to fly him south to Mexico.
About 30 minutes later, the hijacker opened the rear hatch of the Boeing 727 and jumped into the frigid darkness at an altitude of 3,048m.
Authorities estimated he landed in a rugged, heavily forested area of the northwestern state of Washington.
The man was never found, though a small amount of the ransom money was discovered in British Columbia, Canada.
“It’s still an unsolved case and in that regard we have an interest, but it’s not a priority either,” Gutt said.