Ground search resumes for US adventurer Fossett

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RENO, Sep 30 (Reuters) Search teams on foot, horseback and all-terrain vehicles resumed their quest today in western Nevada for millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett, missing since taking off alone in a small plane on Sept. 3.

The ground search, now in its second day, focused on a patch of rugged terrain identified by US Air Force radar analysis as an area where Fossett's aircraft was likely to have gone down, said Gary Derks, a state Department of Public Safety official overseeing the operation.

Speaking to Reuters by telephone from the command center in Nevada's capital, Carson City, Derks said the teams were expected to finish covering the search area of roughly 50 to 60 square miles (130 to 155 square km) by nightfall.

Sunday's effort consisted of about 35 searchers on foot, horseback and ATVs, joined by two Nevada Civil Air Patrol planes, Derks said.

A 10 1/2-hour search yesterday by 50 people on the ground and three Civil Air Patrol aircraft turned up nothing, he said.

Daily aerial searches by the Civil Air Patrol and National Guard were called off after 17 days on Sept 19, but authorities insisted they had not given up hope and would renew efforts to explore possible crash sites when warranted.

The weekend search concentrated in an area of rugged canyons and dense brush southeast of the ranch in western Nevada where Fossett took off in a single-engine plane, reportedly to scout locations for a planned attempt to set a land-speed record.

The search region was pinpointed by a new Air Force analysis of radar images from Sept 3 showing a flight ''trailing'' that they believe was left by Fossett's plane, Derks said.

''They feel pretty confident that that was Mr. Fossett's aircraft, so we're taking that lead and following up on it,'' he said.

The search for Fossett is the most extensive ever mounted in the Western US state of Nevada.

Fossett, a millionaire financial trader and record-breaking pilot, became the first person to fly a balloon solo around the world in 2002, and three years later became the first to fly an airplane alone nonstop around the globe.

He also has scaled more than 400 mountain peaks, swam the English Channel, competed in the Le Mans auto race and mushed his way through Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Born in California in 1944, Fossett holds a total of 116 records in balloons, airplanes, sailboats, gliders and airships. His autobiography is titled ''Chasing the Wind.'' Reuters MP VP0220

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