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Friends react to Fossett news

AP PhotoSteve Fossett holds 116 world records for endeavors in airplanes, balloons, sailboats and gliders.
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VAIL ” Local friends of Steve Fossett said Wednesday they weren’t sure what to make of news out of California that possible belongings of the missing aviator had been found.

“Until things get a little more substantiated and things are more confirmed, I really don’t know what to think of it,” said Ed “Merlin” Sagon, owner of Gypsum’s Camelot Balloons, who taught Fossett how to fly balloons.

A hiker said he found a Federal Aviation Administration identity card, a pilot’s license,a third ID and $1,005 in cash tangled in a bush off a trail just west of the town of Mammoth Lakes, Calif. on Monday.



The information on the pilot license ” including Fossett’s name, address, date of birth and certificate number ” was sent in a photograph to the FAA, and all matched the agency’s records, spokesman Ian Gregor said.

Searchers were scrambling Wednesday to comb the mountainous terrain around Mammoth.



Fossett, a part-time Beaver Creek resident, disappeared Sept. 3, 2007, after taking off in a single-engine plane borrowed from a Nevada ranch owned by hotel magnate Barron Hilton.

Even though Sagon was cautious about the California finds, he said he wanted some closure in the case of his friend’s mysterious disappearance.

“That would be huge,” he said.



Fossett’s widow, Peggy, said in a statement Wednesday that she was aware of the discovery and impending search.

“I am hopeful that this search will locate the crash site and my husband’s remains,” she said. “I am grateful to all of those involved in this effort.”

Bobby Hernreich, a local resident and developer, first met Fossett when they were graduate students at Washington University.

“I don’t know what to make of that,” Hernreich said of Wednesday’s news. “You think he crashed there and was walking around aimlessly? I don’t know.”

Like Sagon, Hernreich said some kind of closure would be good.

“It’s encouraging because it does lead you to believe that some closure may be at hand,” he said.

Tim Cole, the Greeley balloon expert who worked with Fossett for over a decade in Fossett’s pursuit of aviation records, said he couldn’t comment on the latest discovery.

“I think until they’re verified that they are what we’re hoping them to be, no one can comment on it,” he said.

Fossett holds 116 world records for endeavors in airplanes, balloons, sailboats and gliders. He swam across the English Channel, raced a car for 24 hours straight, did the Ironman Triathlon, skied from Aspen to Vail and completed the Iditarod dogsled race.

In 2005, he became the first person to fly a plane solo around the world without stopping or refueling, covering 23,000 miles in 67 hours in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer jet.

A memorial was held for Fossett at the Vilar Center in March.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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