Fossett Friends And Family Face Likely Loss

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Sir Richard Branson said this week that he knows his friend, adventurer Steve Fossett, probably will not be found alive. "I think the chances are that he's no longer with us," Branson told Matt Lauer on NBC's Today Show on Monday. "I think everybody involved has pretty well given up hope, sadly." Fossett was last seen on Sept. 3 when he took off from a private airstrip in Nevada for a short flight in a Super Decathlon. Branson said Fossett's wife, Peggy, plans to return to Nevada soon for "one final search," but her husband's loss is beginning to sink in. Lauer's interview with Branson is posted online. Continuing efforts by the Civil Air Patrol and privately funded searchers have failed to turn up any sign of Fossett or the airplane he was flying. New analysis of radar traces earlier this month pointed to a 100-square-mile area southeast of the Hilton ranch that Fossett took off from, but ground searchers found nothing.

Authorities have said they will continue the search if new leads arise. Meanwhile, the private search continues with various kinds of imaging and field reconnaissance.