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Author Talks About Finding Frozen Airman

After a difficult hike to the Mount Mendel Glacier, author Peter Stekel found what he was looking for... airplane wreckage from a 1942 plane crash.

But he also made a gruesome discovery. "The first thing I thought was, I can't be seeing what I'm seeing" says the author who grew up in California. Pictures taken by Stekel show the remains of the unidentified airman where he discovered it 12,000 feet up in the high Sierras. But at first, he mistook the dark brown mummified mass for a tree.

After he realized it was the mummified remains of a World War II airman, the author began taking pictures: the gold signet ring worn by the aviator, and the parachute found by his side. But even though Stekel made a bigger find than he planned, it still troubled him.

"We go through life trying to prepare ourselves for surprises and shocks, but no matter what you do, there's no way you can prepare for it" says Stekel.

Forensic anthropologists in Hawaii believe the airman is one of four men killed in a 1942 plane crash into Mount Mendel. The remains have been sealed in ice for 60 years, but like a melting time capsule, the glacier is now revealing the crash site. Two years ago, the first airman found, 22 year old Leo Mustonen, was discovered in the same area.

Now Stekel is awaiting identification of the second airmen so he can tell his story. "If it were me up their on the glacier, I would want someone to respect my life and what i did and tell my story, and it's a great story because it's about real people."

Stekel has planned a book about the 1942 plane crash called "Final Flight." It will not only tell the story of those four World War II aviators, but also of the geology of rock and ice glaciers in the Sierras, as well as hiking to the wreck.

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