November 5, 2008

DNA Tests Confirm Death Of Steve Fossett

Results of DNA tests have confirmed that two large bones found last Wednesday near the wreckage of a plane in California are those of millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett, according to police.

The 63-year-old record-breaker disappeared over a year ago during a solo flight from a nearby Nevada ranch. The bones were recovered roughly half a mile away from a crash site in a remote stretch of the Sierra Nevada mountains in eastern California. The site was discovered last month after a hiker handed over items believed to belong to Fossett to the police.

Fossett's driver's license and shoes were also found at the site, both with signs of animal bite marks, said authorities.

"A California Department of Justice Forensics lab has determined that items containing DNA - discovered last week - match James Stephen Fossett's DNA," California police coroners said.

Fossett's Bellanca Super Decathlon appeared to have struck the mountainside head-on, according to investigators flown by helicopter to the crash site. Most of the fuselage had disintegrated, and engine parts were observed scattered over a 150 ft. by 400 ft. debris field.

Madera County Sheriff John Anderson told BBC News Fossett would have died instantly on impact, and said it was not unusual for animals to drag away remains.

Fossett's widow, Peggy, called last week's somber discovery "another step in the process of completing the investigation into the tragic accident that took Steve's life".

Despite exhaustive search efforts, there was no trace of Fossett for more than a year after he went missing. Authorities declared him legally dead earlier this year.  The hiker's discovery last month of Fossett's possessions set off an aerial search of the area and the wreckage was subsequently found about a quarter mile away.

In 2002, Fossett became the first person to complete a solo trip around the world in a balloon.  He also held roughly 100 other world records, some of which include:

  • 1998/2002 - Long-distance solo ballooning
  • 2001/2002 "“ Solo ballooning duration
  • 2002 "“ First solo round-the-world balloon flight, and first balloon crossings of Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, South Pacific and India Ocean.  Seven fastest speed sailing records and 13 World Sailing Speed Record Council titles.
  • 2001 "“ Fastest transatlantic sailing
  • 2004 "“ Fastest "Ëœround-the-world' sailing


Image Caption: At NASA Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility, Steve Fossett, seated in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer cockpit, checks visibility and head space. Fossett will pilot the GlobalFlyer on a record-breaking attempt by flying solo, non-stop without refueling, to surpass the current record for the longest flight of any aircraft. This is the second attempt in two days after a fuel leak was detected Feb. 7. The expected time of takeoff is 7 a.m. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett (Feb. 8, 2006)