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Steve Fossett's Crashed Plane Found

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Los Angeles, CASearch crews have found the wreckage of a plane crash in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, near Mammoth Lakes. The plane was piloted by Steve Fossett, who disappeared over a year ago after he departed on a solo flight from a Nevada airstrip. The crash site was discovered from the air after a hiker found items believed to belong to Fossett, including a pilot's license and other identification.

Airplane PilotOn September 3, 2007, Fossett left the Nevada airstrip for a three hour flight in a Bellanca Citabria Super Decathalon plane. Fossett had not filed a flight plan and did not tell people where he was headed that day. When Fossett failed to return, search crews were sent out but his whereabouts were not determined despite repeated efforts to locate him. A judge declared Fossett legally dead on February 15, 2008 at the request of Fossett's wife.

Fossett was a millionaire and an adventurer who made his money trading commodities and securities. Prior to his disappearance, he set a record for the longest flight by any aircraft. He did so by traveling 26,389 miles without refueling. He was also the first person to circumnavigate the world in a hot-air balloon.

Although the plane's wreckage has been found, Fossett is still missing. At a press conference Sheriff John Anderson said the crash appeared "so severe that I doubt if someone would have walked away from it." At least one spokesperson indicated that if human remains are not found within a few days of a crash they will likely not be found at all because of wildlife in the area.

Nancy Upham, a spokesperson for the Inyo forest, said the plane was badly destroyed in the crash. The engine was found 300 feet from the plane's main fuselage, much of which disintegrated on impact. Authorities believe the plane may have hit the mountainside head-on.

So far, there is no word on what caused the plane to crash and the NTSB's acting chairman says that it will be weeks or even months before they know what happened.

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