Efforts to find aviator Steve Fossett have dwindled - along with hopes that his proven ability to cheat death enabled him to survive a plane crash in the rugged desert of northern Nevada.
More than a month after he left for a short flight, no one has found any trace of Fossett, and authorities have suspended the search, although some private efforts financed by the adventurer's friends and family continue.
"My gut feeling is that he didn't survive the impact. It's so unlikely," said Maj. Cynthia Ryan of the Nevada Civil Air Patrol. She said if Fossett were alive but too injured to walk, he would have tried to signal searchers in some manner.
"He's not the kind of guy to just sit and wait for help to show up," Ryan added.
Lyon County Sheriff Allen Veil said Fossett's disappearance remains under investigation as a missing-person case, and authorities are not prepared to presume the aviator is dead.
"We will try to come to a conclusion, but we're not there yet," Veil said.
Fossett, 63, had previously survived a nearly 30,000-foot (9,000-meter) plunge in a crippled balloon, a dangerous swim through the frigid English Channel and hours stranded in shark-infested seas.
Fossett, who made millions as a commodities broker in Chicago, also completed the Iditarod sled-dog race, scaled some of the world's best-known peaks, sailed and flew around the world, and set more than 100 aviation and distance records.
Fossett's friends are still looking for him, flying out of hotel mogul Barron Hilton's sprawling ranch, about 80 miles (128 kilometers) southeast of Reno. That is where Fossett and his wife had been staying on Sept. 3, when he took off alone to scout possible locations for an attempt to break a land speed record in a rocket-propelled car. The cost of the private search has not been disclosed.
At one point, more than 40 Civil Air Patrol, military and private planes and helicopters were aloft over an area that covered 20,000 square miles (51,800 square kilometers), and scores of searchers went on foot into deep, brushy canyons looking for Fossett.
Now, there is just one helicopter based at Hilton's ranch, along with a plane carrying high-tech cameras that photograph potential wreck sites for later analysis.
Barry and Fossett spokesman Brian Spaeth said the wealthy adventurer's family isn't making any public comment. "Not until we find him," Barry said.
Gary Derks, the state Department of Public Safety official in charge of the search, said efforts have been suspended until "additional credible leads become known."
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