Wreckage
Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times
What is left of plane flown by Steve Fossett, the millionaire adventurer who disappeared more than 13 months ago are loaded onto a trailer today. NTSB hired a private salvage company to remove the plane wreckage and transport it to a hanger in Sacramento.

Wreckage of Steve Fossett's plane is airlifted from crash site

Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times
What is left of plane flown by Steve Fossett, the millionaire adventurer who disappeared more than 13 months ago are loaded onto a trailer today. NTSB hired a private salvage company to remove the plane wreckage and transport it to a hanger in Sacramento.
A helicopter removes bundles of twisted metal from the remote, rugged area. Federal investigators plan to begin examining the parts next week. And searchers discover three more bone fragments.
By Jia-Rui Chong, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 4, 2008
Contractors finished plucking parts of adventurer Steve Fossett's plane from remote wilderness in the Sierra Nevada this afternoon, preparing the wreckage for analysis by the National Transportation Safety Board.

A red Bell 205 helicopter made four trips to the crash site, a roughly six-mile off-trail hike into the mountains from the nearest trailhead. The bundles of mangled metal looked like fishing pole bobs on the end of several hundred feet of line below the helicopter.

 
The helicopter dropped the bundles on a flatbed trailer; twisted pieces stuck out from under yellow and white tarp coverings. Many pieces were thin and torturously bent. Some were rusted, and some still carried remnants of blue paint.

A hiker found identification cards earlier this week in the remote mountains that led searchers to wreckage of Fossett's single-engine plane and bone fragments that might have come from a human. Searchers today found three more bone fragments that were consistent in size -- about 2 inches by 1.5 inches -- and shape with the earlier find.

Fossett, 63, went missing last year during a solo pleasure flight from Nevada; he and his plane were never found -- until this week when hiker Preston Morrow stumbled on the documents hidden under a blanket of pine needles.

At the crash site today, several workers from a Sacramento contractor, Plain Parts, unhooked the bundles and secured them to the flatbed with thick, yellow belts. By 1 p.m., the flatbed was ready to be attached to a truck and driven to the contractor's headquarters in Sacramento, where National Transportation Safety Board analysts planned to begin surveying the parts next week.

The safety board will be looking to see how they were damaged to determine if any parts broke off before the accident, said Mark V. Rosenker, chairman of the agency. He held a news conference today in Mammoth Lakes. Investigators also will be looking for blood stains and gathering radar data.

"From that radar data, we may get lucky and have a better understanding of where, and finally, when the accident occurred," he said.

Investigators believe weather could have played an important role, so they are conducting a detailed examination of wind and cloud conditions and possible turbulence through archived records of the day of Fossett's flight. They will add any information they can deduce about the plane's path from a paint mark found on a large rock in the area.

Rosenker said he was not surprised that no one noticed that a plane had crashed in the mountains last year, even though parts of the wreckage burst into flames after impact.

"The fire may not have been long enough or big enough to have created a lot of interest," he said.

Rosenker said the area where the plane landed was "spectacular" but "rough." He said that after he and other investigators were dropped off near the wreckage by a helicopter, "even knowing where the site was, I couldn't see it."

On Friday afternoon, the Madera County Sheriff's Department was still waiting on analysis of a bone fragment found Wednesday at the crash site. About 20 search-and-rescue workers and three dog teams left the site in the afternoon because of an impending storm.

jia-rui.chong@latimes.com




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