Steve Fossett’s pilot’s license and other ID were found by a hiker earlier this week. The man reported it to the local authorities and they searched . The plane wreckage has now been found with some human remains.
MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. - Federal investigators said Thursday they found human remains amid the wreckage of Steve Fossett’s airplane in the mountains of eastern California, just over a year after the millionaire adventurer vanished on a solo flight.
The remains were found among a field of debris that stretched 400 feet long and 150 feet wide in a steep section of the Sierra Nevada, the National Transportation Safety Board said.
Some personal effects also were found at the crash site but investigators would not describe them in any detail.
“We found human remains, but there’s very little. Given the length of time the wreckage has been out there, it’s not surprising there’s not very much,” said acting NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said. “I’m not going to elaborate on what it is.”
The mangled debris of the plane was spotted in the air late Wednesday near the town of Mammoth Lakes and was identified by its tail number. Investigators said the plane had slammed straight into a mountainside.
“It was a hard-impact crash, and he would’ve died instantly,” said Jeff Page, emergency management coordinator for Lyon County, Nev., who assisted in the search.
Coroners to probe DNA
NTSB investigators went into the mountains Thursday to figure out what caused the plane to go down. Most of the fuselage disintegrated on impact, and the engine was found several hundred feet away at an elevation of 9,700 feet, authorities said.
“It will take weeks, perhaps months, to get a better understanding of what happened,” Rosenker said before investigators set off.
Search crews and cadaver dogs scoured the steep terrain around the crash site in hopes of finding at least some trace of his body and solving the mystery of his disappearance once and for all.
Rosenker said searchers found enough remains at the site to provide coroners with DNA.
Searchers familiar with the mountainous wilderness noted the many coyotes and other wildlife in the area, and Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said: “It’s quite often if you don’t find remains within a few days, because of animals, you’ll find nothing at all.”
Fossett was 63 when he vanished on Sept. 3, 2007, after taking off in a single-engine Bellanca from a Nevada ranch owned by hotel magnate Barron Hilton. The intrepid balloonist, pilot and all-around thrill-seeker was scouting locations for an attempt to break the land speed record in a rocket-propelled car.
Fossett’s disappearance spurred a huge search that covered 20,000 square miles, cost millions of dollars and included the use of infrared technology. Eventually, a judge declared Fossett legally dead in February. For a while, many of his friends held out hope he survived, given his many close scrapes with death over the years.