Fossett's wrecked plane found in mountain area

Wreckage found today in California has been identified as the aircraft piloted by adventurer Steve Fossett.

A pilot's licence and a second identification document featuring Fossett's details, which were found by a hiker, were also confirmed as authentic today, Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said.

Sir Richard Branson said he expects the body of his "great and extraordinary" friend to be found soon.



The NTSB said the crashed plane was found yesterday and a team of investigators were sent to California to investigate.

"The Bellanca 8KCAB (N240R) has been missing since September 3, 2007, when the pilot departed Yerington, Nevada, for a local flight," the statement said.

"The wreckage was located at about 10,000 feet of elevation in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the vicinity of Mammoth Lakes, California."

The discovery came after a hiker found three identification cards bearing Fossett's name in a bush just west of Mammoth Lakes.

Preston Morrow said he found a Federal Aviation Administration identity card, a pilot's licence, a third ID and £558 in cash on Monday but saw no sign of a plane or of any human remains.

He handed the items to police yesterday after failing to contact Fossett's family directly.

Mammoth Lakes is around 90 miles south of hotel magnate Barron Hilton's Flying M Ranch where Fossett, 63, was last seen alive as he set off in the single-engine aircraft on 3 September last year.



Sir Richard, who backed some of Fossett's record attempts and unsuccessfully tried to circumnavigate the globe by balloon with him, said: "It looks very much like we're close to finding Steve.

"Hiker Preston Morrow needs to be thanked for alerting the authorities, helping them with satellite co-ordinates and being good enough to turn in the 1,000 dollars cash."

Until this week, no trace had been found of Fossett and there has been speculation that he faked his own death.

Sir Richard's statement added: "This should now lay to rest the frivolous stories about Steve and give everyone close to him the chance to pay the right tributes to a truly great and extraordinary man."

Virgin Atlantic, one of Sir Richard's companies, sponsored GlobalFlyer, the plane used by Fossett in 2005 to become the first person to fly a plane solo around the world without refuelling.

Sir Richard told Sky News: "It's likely he will be found in the next few days and they will be able to find out what went wrong.

"He was flying into a perilous mountain area - whether the engine gave out on him or whether he had a heart attack or some other medical problem, you don't know."

Fossett, who made millions as a commodities broker in Chicago, was looking for suitable sites to attempt a new landspeed record when he disappeared.

Sir Richard said Fossett had led "a most extraordinary life but died doing something quite mundane" and added that his friend's death would not put him off taking on dangerous challenges.

"I don't think what happened to Steve should deter people from pushing themselves. There's no question he would have wanted people to see what they were capable of and see if technology could be pushed further."

Andy Green, who lives in London, has held the landspeed record for 11 years and was helping Fossett prepare for his attempt to break it.

"I really want to know what happened to my friend Steve," RAF fighter pilot Mr Green said.

"His widow has found it very hard, as anyone would, when your husband of many years just disappears.

"For all of them, I'm hopeful that finally we will have some closure on this."

Don Cameron, of Cameron Balloons in Bristol, got to know Fossett when the firm made hot-air balloons for his record attempts, including the first solo non-stop round-the-world trip in 2002.

He said it was sad that a man who had survived crash-landing a balloon in shark-infested waters off Australia seemed to have died in a simple plane crash.

"He certainly knew how to fly an aeroplane. If they do find something, maybe the investigators will be able to figure out what happened.

"I think for his family it'll be better if they do know the truth and if they recover remains and can have a funeral.

"It's probably better than leaving it unknown although I don't think there was much doubt it was an air accident.

"I never believed for a moment all the stuff about him faking it. I never thought he was that sort of chap."

Mr Cameron added: "He was the opposite of the brash American. You could know him for years and suddenly discover things he'd done that were amazing.

"He was a great character. He was brave and had tremendous stamina."

Fossett was declared legally dead in February by Illinois judge Jeffery Malak.

Fossett's widow Peggy said in a statement yesterday that she hoped the search would locate her husband's remains and added: "I am grateful to all of those involved in this effort."

The hiker who found the documents which sparked the search near Mammoth Lakes, said he did not know who Mr Fossett was initially but a colleague recognised the name.

"It was just weird to find that much money in the backcountry, and the IDs," he said.

"My immediate thought was it was a hiker or backpacker's stuff, and a bear got to the stuff and took it away to look for food or whatever."

Mr Morrow said he returned to the scene with his wife and three friends on Tuesday and found a black Nautica pullover fleece in the same area but could not be sure it was linked.

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices