(AFP) – Oct 2, 2008
LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Items possibly belonging to missing aviator Steve Fossett have been found by a hiker in a remote area of California more than one year after his mysterious disappearance, police said.
Mammoth Lakes Police Department chief Randy Schienle said items including an identity card bearing Fossett's name had been handed to authorities after being discovered on Tuesday.
"They found some miscellaneous ID and actually some cash in the area, and the ID has the name of Steve Fossett on it," Schienle told CNN.
"We're not certain that it belongs to Steve Fossett but it certainly has his name on the ID which are some miscellaneous pilots and/or aircraft licenses."
The items included a Federal Aviation Administration identity card, a pilot's license, a separate identity card and 1,005 dollars in cash.
FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told AFP he had been shown a photograph of the identity card and that the information carried on it corresponded with what was stored on the agency's database.
"I can't say much more at this stage until we see the document," Gregor said. "I've only seen a photo of it so far."
Police said a command post had been set up at Mammoth Lakes Airport and aerial searches of the area were underway.
The mountainous terrain where the items were found is well within the range of the private airfield south of Reno, Nevada, where Fossett took off from on September 3, 2007.
Schienle declined to speculate on whether searchers expected to discover wreckage of Fossett's plane, a single-engine Citabria Super Decathlon.
"All I know is we have this ID. It seems to have been outside there for a while, because the ID itself is well weathered as well," he said. "I don't know if we're anywhere near a potential wreckage or not."
Fossett's disappearance baffled rescuers who found no trace of the 63-year-old adventurer despite a massive search that involved dozens of aircraft taking to the skies to scour the region.
A multi-millionaire who made his fortune dealing stocks in Chicago, Fossett set dozens of world records in sailboats, gliders and hot-air balloons.
He famously made the first solo nonstop, non-refueled circumnavigation of the world in 67 hours in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer. In 2002, he was the first person to fly solo around the world in a balloon.
In February, an Illinois judge declared Fossett legally dead at the request of his widow, who issued a recent statement that there were "no further plans for additional searching."
Fossett's iconic status and the unusual circumstances around his demise have brought comparisons to the enduring question of what happened to aviator Amelia Earhart, who vanished over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.
The fact that no trace of Fossett or his plane was found after his disappearance have given rise to numerous conspiracy theories, with British newspapers in July speculating he could have faked his death.
However Fossett's close friend and fellow adventurer Sir Richard Branson has rubbished the speculation. "If it were true, I'd be the happiest man ever," Branson told media earlier this year.
"I would love to see Steve alive and living somewhere with a beautiful lady. I'm absolutely sure that it's absolutely bollocks."
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