Fossett conspiracies drive British press

Published Caption: Associated Press

Published Caption: Associated Press

Guy Adams didn't have time to explore the Nevada desert before he left, but he was at least able to see the mountains, ravines and canyons on his flight.

"Even when you say you crashed a plane in the desert, people think of deserts as a big, flat open space," said Adams, a reporter for the British newspaper, The Independent. "You know, you (think you) can drop a nickel and you'd be able to see it from outer space."

He spent a few days before he came Wednesday interviewing experts, investigators and skeptics about the theory that millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett had not died in September when he took off from a private ranch outside Yerington, but had faked his own death, possibly to run away with a mistress or avoid losing money on the stock market.

Adams came to Reno and Carson City from his Los Angeles office to see what the area Fossett had died in, or escaped from, was like.

Newspapers, especially those in England, have been scrambling this week to follow up on a story in the London-based News of the World. The paper cited a U.S. Civil Air Patrol representative as well as an insurance investigator who, the newspaper said, were skeptical of the death of Fossett, a billionaire and the first person to fly nonstop around the world in a hot air balloon.

Adams, 30, said he writes most of his articles on entertainment, "like Brad Pitt's toothbrush," but the British love the Americana that Nevada can offer " brothels, Las Vegas and elaborate conspiracies.

"When you say, 'Steve Fossett crashed an airplane in the States and they can't find it,' then what is going on here then?" he said. "You know on the face of it you've got one of the most technically advanced nations on Earth and one of the most developed nations on Earth with satellite surveillance, with dozens of airplanes and dozens of helicopters and, you'd think, why the hell can't you find a fairly large airplane that goes missing?"

That's why Adams said he had to see the landscape for himself. He wanted to understand the canyons and ravines that could hide a plane, despite the more than $2.5 million spent by private and public groups in searching for it.

Adams, who writes in a thin hardback journal the size of a children's book, said all experts agree that Fossett died in plane crash.

While several private American groups have announced more searches for Fossett, the media attention seems to be coming from outside, said Sgt. 1st Class Erick

Studenicka, spokesman for the Nevada National Guard, which participated in the initial search for Fossett.

"The interest seems to be more worldwide than domestic," he said.

Chris Irvine, who wrote an article this week for the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph titled "Adventurer Steve Fossett 'may have faked his own death,'" said the story's popularity probably has to do Fossett's friendship with British billionaire Richard Branson.

It's a mystery, Irvine said, many have already moved on from.

"I don't think it's something we're waiting on with baited breath," he said.

- Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

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