Thursday, September 27, 2007

New Leads in Search for Fossett

Wednesday September 26, 2007 3:46 AM


Associated Press Writer

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Relying on new leads from Air Force experts, crews looking for famed aviator Steve Fossett plan to comb a rugged area near Death Valley by air and foot, authorities said Tuesday.

Gary Derks, the state Department of Public Safety official in charge of the search, said the Air Force analyzed images picked up by radar and satellite and ``picked up what could be Mr. Fossett, his track.''

``It gives us an idea, if it's him, what direction he was going,'' Derks said of the wealthy adventurer, missing for more than three weeks.

Derks said the area stretches about 100 miles to the southeast from where Fossett took off Sept. 3, an airstrip on a million-acre ranch owned by hotel mogul Barron Hilton. Maps show the area would include Nevada's remote Silver Peak Range, close to Death Valley National Park in California.

``There's nothing definite, nothing concrete,'' Derks said. ``These are just some hits that we want to track.''

Search planes will fly over the area Saturday and Sunday, Derks said.

The area is ``very rough terrain,'' Derks said. ``If he's there, he's going to be hard to see. That's why we're sending in the ground search-and-rescue crews, too.''

A private search effort by Fossett's family and friends continued Tuesday when a plane with sophisticated camera gear took off from the ranch.

Fossett, 63, has not been seen since he left on what was supposed to be a short ride in a lightweight acrobatic plane to scout locations to break the land speed record.

The adventurer, who made millions as a commodities broker in Chicago, is the first person to circle the globe solo in a balloon. He has also swum the English Channel, completed the Iditarod sled dog race and scaled some of the world's best-known peaks.

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