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NTSB: Remains found at Steve Fossett wreckage site

Adventurer's plane wreckage found in California
October 2, 2008 4:43:00 PM PDT
The mysterious disappearance of Chicago adventurer Steve Fossett has been solved. Federal investigators say they have found body parts amid the wreckage of a missing adventurer's airplane in the mountains of eastern California.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that searchers found enough at the crash site of Steve Fossett's plane to provide coroners with DNA.

National Transportation Safety Board acting Chairman Mark Rosenker won't say exactly what searchers found. But he says it was not surprising how little they uncovered, considering how long it had been since the crash.

Fossett was 63 when he vanished a little more than a year ago.

Fossett's crashed plane was found late Wednesday night in a mountainside in California. He vanished more than a year ago after taking off from an airport in Nevada.

He was declared dead by a judge last February after an extensive search that covered more than 20,000 square miles turned up nothing. The wreckage was found late Wednesday night in the Inyo National Forest near the town of Mammoth Lakes, California.

Search crews are working the high altitude, difficult terrain crash site. The NTSB says the evidence suggests it was a high impact crash that no one could have survived.

The Inyo National forest in the Sierra Nevadas and elevation there is about 9,700 feet. When a hiker roaming off trail on Monday found aviation IDs and cash belonging to Fossett, crews re-initiated search efforts - both on the ground and in the air.

On Wednesday, a helicopter crew spotted plane wreckage about a quarter mile from where the ID's were found. Once they reached the site, ground searchers confirmed that the plane was the single-engine aircraft that Fossett borrowed for a sightseeing flight a year ago.

"It appeared to have been a head-on crash - the engine was found about 300 feet from the wings," said Madera County Sheriff John Anderson.

Investigators say there was evidence of a post-impact fire and considerable damage caused by weather over the past year. Search crews with cadaver dogs then worked the area around the very rugged crash site.

"We've had some photographs that were presented to us that we reviewed briefly this morning that tells us some preliminary information. That information is indicative of a high impact crash, which appears to be consistent with a non-survivable accident," said Mark Rosenker, NTSB.

During last year's extensive search for the downed aviator, Civil Air patrol planes flew over the grid that included the crash site nearly 20 times, but saw nothing - most probably because they were fixed-wing aircraft that couldn't safely fly as low as a helicopter.

"The good thing about today is we have closure. His wife now knows what's happened and his friends and relatives know what's happened," said Richard Branson, entrepreneur and friend.

The aircraft's single engine was found about 300 feet from what was left of the fuselage. While National Transportation Safety Board investigators are quite good at analyzing what might have gone wrong - a year has passed - and their may not be a lot of aircraft evidence to work with.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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