Steve Fossett Items Found Near Mammoth Lakes

[UPDATE October 31: See the new post today which includes the location of all items found including the crash site, and today’s location where they believe they found Fossett’s remains.]
[UPDATE Oct 2, 2:30 PM ET: Wreckage of Steve Fossett’s plane has been confirmed according to this Reuters story. According to another report I read the plane apparently crashed into a ridge and the engine was found about 50 yards from the plane. I’ve added the coordinates of a no-fly zone from the FAA – a 9 mile radius from coordinates given in their post. I’ve now estimated the position of the wreck based on a photo released to the press showing the wreck site. See the KML file below for the location, and the placemark contains the photo. I used Google Earth’s terrain to match the location where the photo was taken. I will update again when I have official coordinates. No mention has been made about finding Fossett’s remains.]
Last year, adventurer Steve Fossett went missing after leaving for a recreational flight in a small airplane near the border of Nevada/California. Thousands of people used Google Earth to search aerial and satellite imagery for signs of where his plane may have gone down. Nothing was found after months of intensive searching on the ground, on the Internet, and from the air. He was declared dead in February 2008.
Steve Fossett Items Found New Here - Google Earth ViewNow, a hiker near Mammoth Lakes, California found Steve Fosset’s FAA license, another card, some money, and a weathered sweat jacket. The location was mentioned in this story, as being near Minaret Lake. GEB reader Matthew Dettinger was the first to e-mail with the specifics including coordinates for the lake. You can view the location , near where the items were found, here in Google Earth. However, the imagery in Google Earth for this location is from 2005. Since Fossett went missing in September 2007, those images won’t help find him or his plane. However, it does give you an idea of the terrain and the number of nearby lakes where his plane may have completed its journey.
[UPDATE 1655: More details in this LA Times story. The amount of money reportedly found was 10 $100 bills. ]
[UPDATE 2350: Authorities discovered some wreckage late in the day which may be related to Steve Fossett’s disappearance. However, authorities pointed out there have been many crashes in the area, so we will have to wait for ground crews to verify the wreckage on Thursday. See AP story.]
[UPDATE 2-Oct 1245 FAA releases a no-fly zone within 9 miles of these coordinates: 37º39’32″N, 119º07’32″W – Possible location of the wreck.]

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. Here is a link to my blog post with GPS and location of Minaret lake –>

  2. I guess the logical follow-on question is how to get an overlay with newer satellite data?

  3. i reopened the sat footage we were looking @ back in 2007… it doesn’t help @ the location steves stuff was found, huge bummer!

    • Was body and DNA confirmation completed, as is protocol, in NTSB & INSURANCE. If you find sweater, wallet cards, personal effects, but no blood, no body, I am late on this story, but now very curious, anyone know more about this story, up to date april 2015?
      Thanks all

  4. Note that the link is just chosen at Minaret Lake, not the exact location the documents were found (as I understand it). The original story says “near the area of Minaret Lake and Minaret Mine”. Minaret Mine is over a mile away as the crow flies, and the area given is fairly vague, so it could well be miles in any direction.
    Minaret Mine: 37.6747222222 N, 119.148611111 W

  5. yeah, the latimes added the $1000 detail, good hint that that guy was the first that wallet… any other person that would have found it and not told about it would have stolen that much money!

  6. The article @ the LA Times says “The items were found about seven miles west of Mammoth Mountain near a spot called Reds Meadow”. Reds Meadow Hot Springs is 2 miles west of Mammoth Mountain, and about 5 miles west of Mammoth Lakes. The closest road to Reds Meadow is called “Minaret Summit Rd.”. I believe there’s some confusion with Mammoth Lakes / Minaret Rd that led someone to mention Minaret Lake… My two cents….

  7. Does anyone have a weather report for that area for when he went missing?

  8. The wreckage has just been found by a sharp eyed helicopter pilot and his crew. The GPS location was given to ground crews in the area but due to darkness, they probably won’t be able to search until Thursday morning.

  9. yeah, but i think the sheriffs office got the GPS coordinates from the hiker… so there’s no way they will be as confused as the public or the media is right now;-)
    since there’s no high rez footage online to help with the search it’s not a big deal anyways… we now know where approx. he went down… could be that an animal, a bear or a lion, might have dragged the belongings a few miles… but the general location is now set… my guess is that it will take a few days to find the wreckage, and hopefully his remains in one piece… the family will be glad to be able to bury him…
    he died doing what loved most, not many people are able to die that way… and high speed impacts are not painful for the passengers… unless he made an attempt to land in that rugged terrain and died in agony with broken legs or something like that… nobody deserves something like that… let’s hope it was quick and painless….!

  10. Interesting to note that while viewing Yahoo Satellite Maps there is a 1000 foot square section that has been replaced or seems out of place. The map is otherwise very uniform. The coordinates are:
    37°40’29.08″N 119° 6’34.26″W
    There is a parking lot about 1.8 miles from the location identified earlier. If I were hiking in this area it’s probably the point at where I would start. It’s at the end of Agnew Meadows Rd.
    37°40’54.84″N 119° 5’11.57″W
    It would probably be a very healthy 1~2 mile hike in what looks like a pretty rugged area.

  11. according to FAA there is a no fly zone for a nine mile radius around 37°39’32″N 119°07’32″W

  12. Weather at Mammoth station on Sept 3 / 2007: Clear, warm (80s) but gusty (SE 20 / 25 Kts)
    (weather data from
    I went on a “virtual flight” on MS Flight Simulator around the area (on a Cessna 182) and the area is very challenging to flight, most mountain ranges seldom drop bellow 9,000 ft. The gusts would have created lots of down drafts west of the mountain ridges. The “warm” temperature would have increased the altitude density to 12,000 ft or more. Nor hard to imagine anyone flying a Bellanca Super Decathlon crashing under such conditions. I wonder why Steve ended up in that hostile terrain. I noted that a line from the Flying M Ranch take off location towards the crash site passes directly over Mono Lake, and Steve was reportedly scouting for a “dry lake bed” suitable for a planned land-speed record breaking (800 mph!). Maybe Steve “pased out” flying towards Mono Lake and the airplane kept going until it hit the mountais around Mammoth Lake? To reach Mono Lake from Flying M Ranch would require overflying a 9,000 ft ridge north of Mono Lake. Did Steve have failed to realize that, with a density altitude of +12,000 ft we would require extra oxygen? Or did he have a malfunctioning oxygen supply…? Under the conditions, and the crash site, apoxia does seem a possibility to me…

  13. Where exactly is this spot that seems out of place?

  14. I wonder if the wreckage would have been visible in the Mechanical Turk search project.

  15. The coordinates given by the FAA fit the picture of the crash site on CNN. You can match the mountains in the background.

  16. Space Spook says

    I’m using Google Earth and at if you search 37°40’29.08″N 119° 6’34.26″W there is clearly a visible line of disturbed terrain leading straight to that point.
    Can’t see any good detail or features.

  17. Your slope picture of the ‘crash site’ is wrong there are no peaks north of the site you show sideways. It needs to be a slope running SE to NW

  18. Wow, I’ve viewed some of the other photos posted on Google Earth. What a spectacular place. I’d love to check it out someday. I just fear that my out of shape self could not tolerate the elevation. Skiing the top of Snowmass nearly killed me.
    I’ve flown on one of those small charter planes at an altitude of 13,500 ft and I thought I was having a heart attack. My chest tightened up and I struggled to breath. The other passengers did not seem to be bothered. My wife was fine, but then she is in much better shape.
    As for the crash pictures, the destruction is pretty bad. The tops of two cylinders on the engine were torn off and the prop is nowhere to be seen. I fly a small single engine Piper and if you make a forced landing I wouldn’t think the speed under those conditions would cause that damage. It suggests a higher speed under cruise power. I’m thinking obscured visibility, incapacitation, or a failure of the flight controls. But hey who am I? I spend way too much time on the internet.

  19. Wow. Thanks everyone for the info pinpointing the crash site. I had searched images via the Mechanical Turk project back when he disappeared. I know this may sound crazy but back then I kept thinking, “They’re searching in the wrong place. He’s not in Nevada. He’s in trees right above a small lake.” It’s bugged me all this time. I doubt we’ll ever know for certain what exactly happened. I just hope his wife, family and friends will find some measure of peace now that the plane has been found.

  20. Thankfully hikers still go off trail and off there computers. I’m very glad this great explorers family can have some closure.

  21. The crash site is a good 4 hour walk from any main access. I have been in the area many times, sept and oct are feeding times for bears for winter sleep. The crash site is approx 1/4 mile from the original documents that were found (possible animal movement). My guess is that a mechanical malfunction may have resulted in an attempt to reach the mammoth airport. At least there is some peace and closure for his family and friends.

  22. Below is a link to a map of the area that labels most of the little lakes. Lois Lake is a little north of Sytem Trail 2621A. The FAA said Fossett went in about 1/2 of a mile from Lois Lake without indicating a direction. Lois Lake is the lake that lies almost due north of the proposed crash site. The distance is just about 1/2 mile. This all adds up well. I think the proposed wreck site fits the facts as we know them so far.

  23. Keep in mind that a plausible explanation of distance between crash site and location of personal items, is that he could have had the shirt (with pilot’s license & money in the pocket) laying loose in the seat. These items may have flown out upon impact. I am glad that this mystery finally has some closure.

  24. Brian… I believe the FAA regulations require the use of oxygen above 12,000 ft (by the pilot at least… I guess it’s not an issue if everybody else on board pass out…) so I find interesting you flew 13,500 without (apparently) any supplementary oxygen. I’d think Steve would be in “top shape”, but who knows… He was 63… He might have flown +12,000 ft before no problem, but an ageing body does go out of shape (that’s what “getting old” is all about, isn’t it?) and maybe he became “incapacitated” during flight?
    Sorry abot being a bit off-topic, just that I haven’t found any forum discussing the accident from an aviation/pilot’s perspective, so I dump my thoughts in here….
    Also glad this find will put a stop to the rumours of Steve faking his death and all that crap. The guy was truly an inspiration, a role model. Rest in peace.

  25. Space Spook… Interesting location, specially the “trail” you mention, which may or may not be “disturbed terrain” (part of an old trail? creek?) Now I realize no one has mentioned which was the *direction* of the impact… This “line of disturbed terrain” goes from WSW to ENE, and if that’s indeed the “crash line”, then my theory of direct impact straight from Flying M Ranch is wrong… Anyone know which was the direction of the impact…?

  26. Still looking at Google Earth…. they seem to have mislabeled Lois Lake as Lost Lake.
    I am a private pilot. The federal regulations state that the pilot-in-command must use supplemental oxygen when flying betwen 12,500 feet and 14,000 feet for more than 30 minutes, and must be on oxygen constantly when over 14,000 feet.
    Those are the regs; however, altitude does different things to different people. I’m sure that Fossett, of all people, knew exactly what his own personal limits were in regard to what altitudes he could fly.
    I started my powered aircraft training in a Citabria. I would not want to be flying at a high altitude in that plane – density altitude means that the engine’s performance goes wayyyyy down (and the Citabria didn’t perform all that well even at sea level).
    There’s a good possibility that Fossett got into a situation where he needed to gain altitude rapidly… the plane would not allow it… and he stalled/spun into the ground. Happens entirely too frequently.
    I hope that somebody will post the exact coordinates of the crash site. I’d be curious if Google Earth would pick it up.

  27. Ray, interesting what you mentioned about your experience w/ the Citabria’s performance [for the unitiated, the Citabria is a variant of the Bellanca Super Decathlon Steve F was flying] Makes one wonder what the hell Steve was doing in that place. I cannot conceive he *consciously* ended up in that spot, flying that airplane, in a day that was both hot and (according to some reports) stormy by the mountains. No average pilot would venture flying in such place under these conditions flying a Super Decathlon. If not apoxia, then he may have had a stroke or something, methinks
    The official NTSB report (not quite updated yet) is at:

  28. steve Woods says

    I am guessing that I heard the rock slide/trees breaking / crash on september 3rd at Agnew Meadows before 9 am and after 7am ,,My kids heard it too and it actually scared them ,, If any one wants to question me further my name is Steve Woods
    — Email removed for security by GEB —
    It was a typical clear morning typically warm and beautiful and again heard no engines just prior to the crash

  29. Pilot and former Citabria/Decathlon driver here! Based upon the pictures and maps posted by SAR member Rockwellb on Flickr… See:
    The center of the debris field is close to: 37d 40m 8.0s and -119d 08m 2.9s
    In sparse trees… lots of pics posted by the SAR guy. I checked with Flash Earth, but Yahoo Maps appears to be same as MSN Maps/Google Maps… must be 2005 date. No sign of the impact/debris/fire noticed. SAR guy says paint streaks on rocks indicate slight climb attitude, tending to mean E to NE heading. 180 HP non-turbo does not make a rocket at 10,000 ft !

  30. @steve woods: If it was between 7 and 9 am PT, then what you heard was most likely not Steve Fosset. He did no leave until between 8:20 and 8:30 AM according to the NTSB report. Also, he was sighted between 10:55 and 11:10 at a point 11 nm south of the airport. So, he most likely did not crash until 12:00 or later given the distances involved.

  31. NOEL MUMFORD says

    hello. could anyone living in Mammoth Lakes please help me with an accident that occurred on 8/21/2008 at the corner of Minaret Rd. and Main St? I need to know the marked lanes (white line)on Minaret Rd. as one would make a right turn from Main St. If i remember correctly, the road begins without any markings dividing the road into two lanes. The white line picks up maybe 50-100ft from the corner. Would be so grateful for the info, even more so for pictures. a mammoth lakes visitor…..noel mumford

  32. Cash that was found was recovered from two locations. The first location had 10 $100 bills and one $5 bill. (This is where his FAA ID was recovered). The second location had 10 more $100 bills. Source is the Discovery Channel program about his disappearance and the discovery of the crash site. Discovery Channel aired it January 15, 2009, around 12:30 AM MST, in Colorado.

  33. Its a geographical information program called earth viewer 3d,it was created by kehole in was re released in 2005,having more functionalities….in this 3d view of an object can see.

  34. Its a geographical information program called earth viewer 3d,it was created by kehole in was re released in 2005,having more functionalities….in this 3d view of an object can see.

  35. This place seems mysterious like ships going missing in Bermuda Triangle :O

  36. I have been to the Sierra Nevada range a few times hiking and camping. This is mountainous terrain.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.