Possible Fossett ID, cash found in woods

A hiker in a rugged part of eastern California found an ID and other items possibly belonging to Steve Fossett, the adventurer who vanished on a solo flight in a borrowed plane more than a year ago, authorities said Wednesday.

The items were found Monday near the town of Mammoth Lakes, Inyo National Forest spokeswoman Nancy Upham said.

“We have some ID that has the name Steve Fossett,” Mammoth Lakes police Investigator Crystal Schafer said. “They were turned in to us and are in our possession.”

A Federal Aviation Administration identity card, a pilot ID and about $1,000 in cash were found in a bush, according to David Baumwohl, an attorney for the hiker who recovered the items.

Preston Morrow, who works in a Mammoth Lakes sporting goods store, took the items to the town's police department Wednesday, Baumwohl said.

The hiker initially didn't know who Fossett was, but once he found out, wanted to alert the Fossett family, Baumwohl said.

Michael LoVallo, a lawyer for Fossett's wife, Peggy, said, “We are aware of the reports and are trying to verify the information.”

Fossett disappeared Sept. 3, 2007, after taking off in a single-engine plane borrowed from a Nevada ranch owned by hotel magnate Barron Hilton. A judge declared Fossett legally dead in February.

Baumwohl and Morrow tried to contact the law firm that handled the death declaration. When they weren't successful, they decided to turn everything over to the police, the attorney said.

Morrow also found a black Nautica pullover fleece, size XL, but left that at the scene. A quick search for airplane pieces before night fell didn't turn anything up, Baumwohl said.

Chances of finding remains are slim, said the attorney, who is a longtime resident of the mountain town and has followed similar cases.

“He's probably been eaten. This is not the first time this has happened,” he said. “When people land in alpine wilderness, there's bears, mountain lions that'll eat the body.”

This year's biggest search for Fossett focused on Nevada's Wassuk Range, more than 50 miles north of Mammoth Lakes. That search ended last month.

Mammoth Lakes is at an elevation of more than 7,800 feet on the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada, where peaks top 13,000 feet.