VANCOUVER, Wash. – A tangled, torn parachute found buried last month last month is not the one used by plane hijacker D.B. Cooper when he bailed out of a plane over the Pacific Northwest, the FBI said Tuesday.
Investigators reached that conclusion after speaking with parachute experts, including Earl Cossey, who packed the chutes provided to Cooper that rainy November night in 1971.
"From the best we could learn from the people we spoke to, it just didn't look like it was the right kind of parachute in any way," said FBI spokeswoman Robbie Burroughs.
Further digging at the site in southwestern Washington turned up no indication that it could have been Cooper's, she added.
A man calling himself Dan Cooper — later mistakenly identified as D.B. Cooper — hijacked a Northwest Orient passenger jet from Portland, Ore., to Seattle on Nov. 24, 1971.
At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, he released the passengers in exchange for $200,000 and four parachutes and asked to be flown to Mexico. He jumped out the back of the plane somewhere near the Oregon line.
Some of the cash has been found, but his fate is unknown, and investigators doubt he survived.
Children playing near a recently graded road found the parachute, and they urged their father to call the FBI because they had seen recent news stories about Cooper's case. The parachute was the right color, and the location was in the middle of what could have been Cooper's landing zone.
That got the attention of FBI agent Larry Carr, who drove to the site to see the find for himself.
But Cossey told Carr that Cooper's parachute was made of nylon. The one the children found was made of silk and did not feature a harness container. Cossey sold parachutes at a skydiving operation in Issaquah in the 1970s.
Cossey has been through the drill before; this is the third time the FBI has asked him to examine parachutes to see whether they might have been Cooper's.
One chute found long ago — he couldn't remember when — was just a "pilot chute," used to pull the main chute out of the pack. The other time, in 1988, it was a parachute found by a Columbia River diver seeking clues to Cooper's fate.
"They keep bringing me garbage," Cossey said. "Every time they find squat, they bring it out and open their trunk and say, 'Is that it?' and I say, 'Nope, go away.' Then a few years later they come back."
Cossey, though sounding cantakerous, appeared to relish the spotlight Tuesday. He answered his cell phone with "D.B. Cooper" and said he got a kick out of telling some reporters that the parachute was, in fact, the hijacker's.
One reporter called him back angrily, saying he could be fired for writing a false story, but another said the newsroom enjoyed the April Fool's joke.
"I'm getting mixed reviews," Cossey said. "But I'm having fun with it; what the heck."