October 1, 2008

Fossett ID Papers Found in Sierras

Identification documents thought to be those of missing U.S. adventurer Steve Fossett have been found by a California hiker, officials said Wednesday.

The papers were discovered in a wilderness area of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a Mammoth Lakes, Calif., police department spokeswoman told The Los Angeles Times.

She said the papers were found on the western side of the Sierra Nevadas by a hiker from Mammoth Lakes. The Times reported the papers bore the name James Steven Fossett as well as the adventurer's birthdate.

Fossett vanished in September 2007 after taking off in a private plane from a remote Nevada ranch. He was declared legally dead by an Illinois court in February even though searchers never found his body nor any plane wreckage.

Madera County, Calif., Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Erica Stuart told the Times that officials were examining the documents and that the department would immediately launch a multi-agency search effort in the area.

Fossett, who circumnavigated the Earth by hot-air balloon and solo by airplane, made millions as a Chicago commodities trader before becoming a full-time adventurer. He swam the English Channel, drove in the 24-hour Le Man auto race, completed Alaska's Iditarod Trail sled dog race and held 116 records in sailboats, balloons and aircraft.