Another Fossett search winds down
September 10, 2008
CARSON CITY, Nev. ” The biggest search this year for Steve Fossett has ground to a halt with team members leaving a rugged mountain area without finding any sign of the aviator-adventurer who has been missing for a year.
Detailed information on the areas searched will be turned over to local authorities, who helped the 28-member team with data amassed in the extensive hunt conducted last year after Fossett disappeared during on a pleasure flight in a borrowed plane.
“While we’re disappointed, we’re glad we tried. It’s the least we can do,” said Robert Hyman, who organized the self-funded search team that had been looking for Fossett since Aug. 23. The team focused on several brush- and tree-choked canyons in the Wassuk Range about 130 miles south of Reno, Nev.
The team packed up its gear on Tuesday.
“I feel good about the effort,” Hyman said. “We did an exhaustive search and nobody got sick or was injured. We hope that any future search will be able to use the work we did as a steppingstone.”
Asked if he would try again next year, Hyman said: “It’s too early to say, but I would like to. Our team was excited about this and they want to do more.”
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Lyon County, Nev., Undersheriff Joe Sanford, whose agency has an open investigation into the case, said he wasn’t surprised that Hyman’s team didn’t find Fossett given the harsh terrain “but I was kind of hoping that they might.”
Sanford praised the team for its efforts. “That’s what it’s going to take ” someone just running across the back country,” he said.
Fossett, 63, made a fortune trading futures and options on Chicago markets. He had more than 100 attempts and successes at setting records in balloons, gliders, airplanes and boats. In 2002, he became the first person to circle the world solo in a balloon. He was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in July 2007.
He disappeared on Sept. 3, 2007, after taking off in a single-engine plane borrowed from the Flying M Ranch owned by hotel magnate Barron Hilton, near the search zone. He was last seen flying less than 100 feet above the ground not far from the ranch, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.
The search area, dominated by towering 11,239-foot Mount Grant, was searched extensively by air and on the ground last year, but Hyman and his fellow search team members have said there was still a lot of land that didn’t get close scrutiny.
Fossett was declared legally dead by a judge in February.
A smaller search still is being conducted by Mike Larson and Kelly Stephenson of Carson City, Nev. They have been riding ATVs and hiking on foot southwest of Hawthorne for several months on days off from work.