Fossett Attorney Dismisses Speculation About Death

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An attorney for Steve Fossett's widow pleaded for an end to speculation circulating in Internet reports that the millionaire adventurer may have faked his own death, possibly because he was heavily in debt.

"His estate is large and debt free," attorney Mike LoVallo said this week. "No unusual movement of funds occurred prior to or since his disappearance."

Fossett, 63, who made a fortune trading futures and options on Chicago markets, took off from a private airstrip in the western state of Nevada last September on a solo flight in a light plane, but never returned, officials said.

Searchers found no trace of the plane, and authorities said it was probable that it went down in rugged country where finding wreckage would be hard.

A Chicago judge declared Fossett legally dead in February.

Fossett was the first person to ride the jet stream around the world in a balloon, climbed some of the world's tallest and toughest mountains, sailed and set a number of world records.

LoVallo said it was understandable, in view of Fossett's fame, that speculation would arise over his disappearance. But he said it was disturbing that such speculation spread to some mainstream media Web sites, based comments by Robert Davis, a Shreveport, Louisiana, insurance risk assessor, and Lt. Col. Cindy Ryan of the Nevada Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

The patrol searched to no avail in the days after the disappearance.

Several of the Internet reports said that Davis either had or might have made an extensive investigation of the disappearance for Lloyd's, the big London insurance market. But a spokeswoman for Lloyd's, Louise Shield, said in an e-mail from London that Davis did not conduct an investigation for the company and, "as far as I am aware, Mr. Davis has never been an employee of Lloyd's or one of its underwriters."

Some Web sites also quoted Ryan as suggesting Fossett might be alive.

The Civil Air Patrol issued a news release July 28 saying that comments attributed to Ryan regarding the search "contain errors of fact, appear to be taken out of context and were not released with the knowledge or approval of CAP."

LoVallo said statements by Lloyd's and the air patrol should help put an end to speculation that he called "both disrespectful to Mr. and Mrs. Fossett and in disregard of the facts and testimony that has been scrutinized by the court."