DNA tests on remains confirm Fossett dead

Genetic tests on two bones found near the wreckage of Steve Fossett's airplane in the California mountains confirm the missing multimillionaire adventurer is dead, local authorities said last night.

"A California Department of Justice Forensics lab has determined that items containing DNA - discovered last week - match James Stephen Fossett's DNA," the Madera County, California, sheriff-coroner's office said in a statement.

Office spokeswoman Erica Stuart said the match of the DNA in the bones discovered last Wednesday brings her office's investigation to an end.

"The coroner's case is closed," Stuart said.

Fossett widow Peggy Fossett said in a statement she welcomed the news of the DNA match and awaits the conclusion of the National Transportation Safety Board's probe into her husband's crash.

"I am hopeful that the DNA identification puts a definitive end to all of the speculation surrounding Steve's death," she said in a statement provided to Reuters.

"This has been an incredibly difficult time for me, and I am thankful to everyone who helped bring closure to this tragedy," she said. "I now await the conclusion of the NTSB investigation and findings into the cause of the crash."

Fossett, 63, vanished after taking off in a single-engine Bellanca Citabria Super Decathlon on Sept. 3, 2007, from the airstrip of hotel magnate Barron Hilton's ranch in Nevada, sparking a long and massive search.

Despite weeks of extensive land and air searches, no wreckage was found and Fossett was declared legally dead in February after investigators concluded his plane was destroyed in a fatal accident.

Early last month local authorities discovered the wreckage of the aircraft after a hiker found identification cards belonging to Fossett not far from Yosemite National Park, prompting the search.

Parts of the small plane were scattered on a mountain over a large area at around 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) near the Nevada border. Search crews initially found a very small amount of human remains, before finding the bones last week.