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Millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett declared dead

The Millionaire adventurer, who risked his life seeking to set records in high-tech balloons, gliders and jets, has been declared dead, five months after he vanished while flying in a small plane.

world Updated: Feb 16, 2008 12:16 IST

Millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett, who risked his life seeking to set records in high-tech balloons, gliders and jets, has been declared dead, five months after he vanished while flying in a small plane.

The self-made business tycoon, who in 2002 became the first person to circle the world solo in a balloon, was last seen September 3 after taking off in a single-engine plane from an airstrip near Yerington, Nevada, heading toward Bishop, California. He was 63.

At the request of his wife, Peggy V Fossett, a judge declared Fossett legally dead in Cook County Circuit Court as a step toward resolving the legal status of his estate, said her attorney, Michael LoVallo.

Judge Jeffrey Malak heard testimony Friday from Peggy Fossett, a family friend and a search-and-rescue expert before deciding there was sufficient evidence to declare him dead.

"It was very sad," LoVallo said, "and at first she hoped and sort of envisioned him walking down the road the next day with another story to tell. But as the days went on, she realised it wasn't going to happen as it had on other occasions when he'd had close calls."

While flight records brought him his greatest fame, Fossett, who was paunchy for most of his life, also climbed some of the world's best-known peaks, including the Matterhorn in Switzerland and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. (Everest did elude him.)

With top notch endurance and concentration, he swam the English Channel and completed the Boston Marathon, the Ironman Triathlon, the Iditarod dog sled race, and, as part of a team, the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race.