Remains found in Fossett wreck |

Remains found in Fossett wreck

Jia-Rui Chong and Steve ChawkinsLos Angeles Times Staff WritersVail, CO Colorado
AP Photo/Mono County Sheriff's Search & RescueWreckage from a plane belonging to Steve Fossett was found in California's rugged Sierra Nevada mountains.

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. Authorities confirmed today that search-and-rescue crews had found the plane of missing adventurer and part-time Beaver Creek resident Steve Fossett, along with what might be some of his remains.Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said crews flying overhead Wednesday evening spotted what they thought was the wreckage in a mountainous area just east of the Minarets, a series of craggy peaks in the Sierra Nevada. They went in and they did locate the aircraft, which we have now confirmed is the one that Steve Fossett was flying when it disappeared last Labor Day, Anderson said.At an afternoon briefing, Mark V. Rosenker, acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said searchers had also discovered what appeared to be some remains, which were being analyzed by forensic scientists at a local coroners office.The wreckage was spread out; the engine was found about 300 feet away from the fuselage and the wings.It appeared to me, just looking at the pictures, it was a head-on crash into the side of the mountain, into a rock, Anderson said. The plane moved in an upward direction for 100 feet or so, and disintegrated.No belongings or human remains were found in the wreckage, Anderson said. He saw photographs of the plane, and the crash looked to be so severe that I doubt if someone would have walked away from it.The wreckage was found about a quarter-mile from where the ID cards were found. Officials suspect an animal may have carried the items away.What it means is that we know for sure, Anderson said. There were questions yesterday that perhaps someone threw the cards or money out the window. Now we know the plane was there, the plane crashed, and we probably have a pretty good indication that Steve Fossetts remains are still up in the mountains somewhere.Five investigators from the NTSB arrived this morning from Washington, D.C., and were preparing to visit the wreckage. Rosenker said investigators had reviewed preliminary information and photographs from the scene.That information is indicative of a high-impact crash, which appears to be consistent with a non-survivable accident, he said.Investigators are now looking at medical records and plan to bring portions of the wreckage to a facility to examine the parts more carefully, he said. A contractor is expected to bring a helicopter Friday to airlift the parts out.It will take us weeks, perhaps months, to have a better understanding of what happened on that mountain that day, Rosenker said.Anderson said the Madera County Sheriffs Department would launch 50 search-and-rescue people and five canine teams from numerous agencies in California and Nevada to look for Fossetts remains. He said officials planned an arm-to-arm search over a one-mile area around the crash site.The Civil Air Patrol, a civilian volunteer group organized by the U.S. Air Force, searched that area 19 times during the initial search last year, but did so in fixed-wing aircraft flying 1,000 feet above ground level. The wreckage was sighted by helicopters flying as low as 200 feet from the ground.Anderson said officials would try to do as much work as possible before an expected snowstorm moved in this afternoon.If it in fact snows, thats going to obliterate any hope of finding the remains or further evidence, Anderson said.Fossetts widow, Peggy, expressed hope today that the discovery of the wreckage would allow her to bring to closure a very painful chapter in my life.In a statement, she said she was grateful to the searchers and particularly to hiker Preston Morrow, who found her husbands items.Morrow, 43, the Mammoth Lakes hiker who found the ID cards and cash, said he was glad his finds led to further answers to Fossetts disappearance.Morrow said he was far off-trail Monday when he found the cash and ID cards. He had hiked from Devils Postpile down the Minaret Lake Trail while exploring the area with his dog, Kona. He went about four miles on the trail, then wandered a few miles off. He was exploring, trying to find some mines, but he never got there.Fossett, 63, disappeared more than a year ago while on a solo pleasure flight from a remote ranch in Nevada. The subsequent search for him spanned about 24,000 square miles, including the high country of the Eastern Sierra Nevada.

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