Fossett’s pilot license found? |

Fossett’s pilot license found?

Tracie Cone and Juliana Barbassa
Associated Press Writers
Vail CO, Colorado
AP photoA California Highway Patrol helicopter heads out Wednesday to search mountainous areas where articles belonging to adventurer Steve Fossett where found near Mammoth Lakes, Calif.

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. ” A hiker in a rugged part of eastern California found a pilot’s license and other items that appear to belong to Steve Fossett, the adventurer who vanished on a solo flight in a borrowed plane more than a year ago, authorities said Wednesday.

The hiker, Preston Morrow, said he found three ID cards and cash off a trail west of the Mammoth Lakes on Monday. He said he turned the items over to local police Wednesday after unsuccessful attempts to contact Fossett’s family.

Mammoth Lakes police investigator Crystal Schafer confirmed that the department had the items, including the those bearing Fossett’s name.

Search teams led by the Madera County Sheriff’s Department have been sent to the scene, and an air and ground effort was expected to be under way soon, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Erica Stuart.

Morrow said he found no sign of a plane or any human remains.

Fossett, who disappeared more than a year ago, was declared legally dead in February following a search for the famed aviator that covered 20,000 square miles.

Aviators had flown over Mammoth Lakes, about 90 miles south of the ranch, in the search for Fossett, but it had not been considered a likely place to find the plane. The most intense searching was concentrated to the north of the town, given what searchers knew about sightings of Fossett’s plane, his plans for when he had intended to return and the amount of fuel he had in the plane.

Morrow, 43, who works in a Mammoth Lakes sporting goods store, said he initially didn’t know who Fossett was. It wasn’t until he showed the items to co-workers Tuesday that one of them recognized Fossett’s name.

“It was just weird to find that much money in the backcountry, and the IDs,” he said. “My immediate thought was it was a hiker or backpacker’s stuff, and a bear got to the stuff and took it away to look for food or whatever.”

Morrow said he returned to the scene with his wife and three friends Tuesday to search further and did not find any airplane wreckage or human remains. They did find a black Nautica pullover fleece, size XL, in the same area, but he said he wasn’t sure if the items were related.

Morrow said he consulted local attorney David Baumwohl, and they initially tried to contact the Fossett family but were unable to get through to their lawyers.

“We figured if it was us, we’d want to know first. We wouldn’t want to learn from the news,” Baumwohl said.

Baumwohl and Morrow tried to contact the law firm that handled the death declaration. When they weren’t successful, they decided to turn everything over to the police, the attorney said.

Mammoth Lakes is at an elevation of more than 7,800 feet on the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada, where peaks top 13,000 feet. This year’s biggest search for Fossett focused on Nevada’s Wassuk Range, more than 50 miles north of Mammoth Lakes. That search ended last month.

The California Civil Air Patrol and private planes from Hilton’s ranch previously had flown over the area, but it was “extremely rough country,” said Joe Sanford, undersheriff in Lyon County, Nev., which was involved in the initial search.

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