Ground searchers chase new tips on Fossett; old crash sites found | PostIndependent.com

Ground searchers chase new tips on Fossett; old crash sites found

SCOTT SONNER
Associated Press Writer

MINDEN, Nev. (AP) ” High winds kept some planes from searching for missing aviator Steve Fossett on Thursday, while ground crews checked out tips about planes that flew in the area the day he disappeared.

“We hope to be back at it very early tomorrow morning, although there is a chance winds could continue for the next couple of days,” said Maj. Cynthia Ryan of the Nevada Civil Air Patrol. Winds were gusting to more than 30 miles per hour.

Planes from a parallel private search effort took off Thursday from the ranch where Fossett departed for a brief flight Sept. 3.

Ground crews returned Thursday to a spot in the Pinenut Mountains in western Nevada where two witnesses reported seeing a plane like Fossett’s fly into a canyon, but not out, on Labor Day.

A Blackhawk helicopter and ground crews were sent to the area Wednesday afternoon. About 80 percent of the area has been searched, Civil Air Patrol Maj. Ed Locke said.

To the south, just across the California line, ground crews searched an area northeast of Yosemite National Park. A woman reported Wednesday that she had camped there over Labor Day and had heard a noise that sounded like an airplane, followed by what sounded like an explosion, said Jeff Page, Lyon County’s emergency manager.

A C-130 found nothing during a flyover Wednesday. California law officers met with the woman Thursday, Lyon County Undersheriff Joe Sanford said.

The small air force combing the wilderness has spotted a half-dozen uncharted crash sites that might bring some solace to the families of fliers who disappeared decades ago.

William Ogle hopes some of the wreckage will be from the plane his father was flying when he vanished on a flight from Oakland, Calif., to Reno. He was only 5 at the time.

“I knew he had taken off in a plane and never came back,” said Ogle, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida. “I can remember flying in his plane. He let me hold the controls, and I remember looking out the window.”

Like Fossett, Charles “Chazzie” Ogle did not file a flight plan for the business trip, so searchers didn’t know where to look in the vastness of the rural West in 1964, Ogle said.

Leaders of the search operation for Fossett say they have not had time to investigate the crash sites in detail.

“When all is said and done, they’ll send ground crews in to thoroughly investigate what is left,” Civil Air Patrol Maj. Cynthia Ryan said of the old crashes.

Fossett, who has a home in Beaver Creek, Colo., has previously survived a nearly 30,000-foot plunge in a crippled balloon, a dangerous swim through the frigid English Channel and hours stranded in shark-infested seas. But 10 days after he took off on a routine flight and never returned, there were many doubts about his survival.

The search covers 17,000 square miles ” an area twice the size of New Jersey ” stretching roughly from the Sierra Nevada ridge west of the Nevada-California line nearly 100 miles to the east.

Authorities have received nearly two dozen calls from people who said they possibly had loved ones on one of the old planes found during the search. Ogle said hopes Fossett’s plane is found quickly.

“I don’t want to see his family go through this,” Ogle said. “It’s better to know what happened. You have that uncertainty hanging over your life.”

On the Net: National Transportation Safety Board: http://www.ntsb.gov; Air Force Rescue Coordination Center: http://www.acc.af.mil/afrcc/


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