Crews searching Fossett crash site find remains

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Oct 2, 2008 7:54pm EDT

1 of 8. Record-breaker Steve Fossett poses by his aircraft the morning of his attempt to fly the first solo, non-stop round the world flight in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer February 28, 2005.

Credit: Reuters/ Dave Kaup/Files

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Crash site investigators found human remains in the wreckage of Steve Fossett's small plane on a remote California mountain, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board said on Thursday.

Mark Rosenker, acting NTSB chairman, told Reuters by telephone that search crews had found a "very small" amount of human remains amid the airplane's debris.

He declined to provide details, adding that local officials will be responsible for examining the remains.

"It will be taken by the sheriff and the coroner and they will do the work," Rosenker said.

Earlier at a news conference he noted that a judge had declared Fossett dead. Fossett vanished after taking off on September 3 of last year from an airstrip in Nevada.

"Our job is to determine what happened on the mountain," Rosenker said.

Crash site investigators confirmed the wreckage of a small plane found on a remote California mountain belonged to lost adventurer Fossett as searchers raced against a coming snowstorm to find the remains of the presumed-dead millionaire.

Parts of the plane scattered over a 10,000-foot high debris field will be loaded onto a helicopter early on Friday, but it could be six months before the cause of the accident is known, Rosenker said at the news conference.

Local officials were more blunt, saying it appeared to be a violent and direct crash that destroyed the plane.

"It's not intact by any means ... It looks like a very high impact crash," said Shannon Kendall, a spokeswoman for the Mono County Sheriff's Department.

The plane's engine was 300 feet away from what remained of its fuselage, she said.

An extensive search was conducted for Fossett, 63, who went missing after taking off in a single-engine Bellanca Citabria Super Decathlon on September 3, 2007, from the airstrip of hotel magnate Barron Hilton's ranch in Nevada. He did not file a flight plan but friends said he was going on a casual pleasure flight.

(Reporting by Jim Christie; Editing by Jackie Frank)

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