Searchers On Land, In Air, Ramp Up Search For Missing Adventurer

Saturday, September 29th 2007, 7:58 pm
By: News On 6

RENO, Nev. (AP) _ Dozens of searchers set off into the rugged Nevada backcountry Saturday after analysts scanning radar and satellite images spotted what may be clues to the whereabouts of missing adventurer Steve Fossett.

Fossett has been missing since his plane went down 27 days ago. The formal aerial search by the Civil Air Patrol and Nevada National Guard helicopters ended Sept. 19 after pilots spent more than two weeks scouring an area twice the size of New Jersey.

A new Air Force analysis of radar and satellite images led to this weekend's ground search, plus with three Civil Air Patrol planes flying over the mountainous area. Volunteers on the ground planned to search during the day Saturday and Sunday, said Gary Derks, the state Department of Public Safety official in charge of the search.

``We have about 50 people on ATVs, horseback, walking _ anything they can find to get them into the canyon,'' said Derks.

``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,'' Derks added.

The search area was southeast of the ranch in western Nevada from where Fossett had taken off, Derks said, but he declined to be more specific to avoid attracting private pilots. Some have feared for the unwanted freelancers' safety.

``It doesn't make any difference to anybody who finds Mr. Fossett. This is not a race to find him. Whoever finds him will help all of us,'' Derks said.

A private search by Fossett's family and friends continued last week.

Fossett, 63, who made millions as a commodities broker in Chicago, is the first person to circle the globe solo in a balloon. He also has swum the English Channel, completed the Iditarod sled-dog race and scaled some of the world's best-known peaks.