October 4, 2008

Fossett’s Aeroplane Hit Mountain on Cloudy Day ; Millionaire Adventurer Died Instantly in High-Impact Smash, Say Experts

By Lucy Bogustawski

MILLIONAIRE adventurer Steve Fossett died when his plane slammed into a mountain on a cloudy day.

The discovery comesmore than a year since the record-breaker disappeared while hunting for a suitable location to try to break the current land speed record.

Search teams were led to the wreckage of the 63-year-old's plane earlier this week after ahiker stumbled across a pilot's licence and other ID cards belonging to him.

The belongings were found close to where his single-engine plane was later spotted - near the town of Mammoth Lakes in the mountains of eastern California - and could have been pulled from the wreckage by animals, investigators said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said bone fragments also found at the site should provide enough DNA to determine whether the remains belonged to Mr Fossett.

The wreckage of the plane was found amid debris spread over a 400ft by 150ft area on a steep mountainside, investigators said.

Jeff Page, emergency management co-ordinator for Lyon County, Nevada, who assisted in the search, said: "Itwas a hard-impact crash and he would have died instantly."

Most of the fuselage disintegratedon impact andthe enginewas found several hundred feet away.

Search teams are now planning to re-visit the crash site to search for more traces of the missing aviator, who was declared legally dead in February.

The cause ofMr Fossett's death emerged on the same day as friends paid tribute to his "adventurer's spirit".

His friend, Briton Andy Green, current holder of the world land speed record, was working with Mr Fossett the week before his disappearance as he prepared for his attempt to break the world record.

Mr Green, from London, said: "Steve was one of those guys who understood that record breaking is part of the human psyche and spirit.

"It's part of human beings to push the boundaries of human endeavour, to wonder what's over the next hill. It makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

"I hope Steve's adventurer's spirit will be carried on and a land speed record will be carried through."

Don Cameron, director of Bristol-based Cameron Balloons which made hot air balloons for Mr Fossett's adventures, said: "We had a lot of fun with Steve and he will be remembered for that as well as for his record breaking.

"We got to know him quite well but there was a sense that you didn't know him well at times.

We'd sometimes found out about things he'd done that we'd never known. He was very quiet, very intelligent and planned very carefully."

His widow Peggy said in a statement yesterday: "I hope now to be able to bring to closure a very painful chapter in my life."

Sir Richard Branson, who backed some of Mr Fossett's record attempts and unsuccessfully tried to circumnavigate the globe by balloon with him, said yesterday: "Now that the plane has been found we can finally bring closure to Steve's wonderful life.

"The frivolous stories can also be put to rest and family, friends and the rest of the world can now pay tribute to a truly great and extraordinary man."

Virgin Atlantic sponsored Global Flyer, the plane used by Mr Fossett in 2005 to become the first personto fly solo around the world without refuelling.

Over the course of his career Mr Fossett set 115 new world records or world firsts. He holds current world records in five sports.

These include the record for first solo balloon flight around the world in 2002 and a 2004 around the- world sailing record of 58days nine hours.

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