Remains of WWII airman possibly found in glacier|
August 21, 2007
FRESNO – A hiker discovered the remains of a man believed to be a
missing World War II airman frozen inside a Sierra Nevada glacier not
far from the spot where a missing aviation cadet's body was found two
years ago, authorities said yesterday.
The second set of human remains was found in a
high alpine region of Kings Canyon National Park on Wednesday, no more
than 100 feet from where climbers spotted the ice-entombed body of Leo
Mustonen in October 2005, park officials said.
Rangers said Seattle-area author Peter Stekel,
who was hiking in the backcountry doing research on a book about the
airman found in 2005, was the hiker who spotted the body, The Fresno Bee reported yesterday.
Rangers flew to the area Saturday to confirm the find, and again Sunday to begin making arrangements to remove the remains, The Bee reported.
Rangers found the body partially exposed on a
remote glacier resting among granite boulders, his undeployed parachute
inches away and the pull cord on his chest.
“It looks like his head was just resting on the
rock,” said Debbie Brenchley, the first Kings Canyon and Sequoia
National Parks ranger to confirm the find. “You can see he has a wool
sweater on, and a white collar and a ring on.”
J.D. Swed, chief ranger of Kings Canyon-Sequoia
National Parks, said there are indications the remains could be from
the same plane as the one that carried Mustonen, 22, of Brainerd, Minn.
His remains were also discovered by hikers. But Swed said they will
have to wait for positive identification to know for sure.
The Fresno County Coroner's Office is overseeing
the retrieval of the remains, which were scheduled to arrive in Fresno
Military anthropologists plan to analyze the
body, which they believe could be one of three men who was flying with
Mustonen when their AT-7 navigational plane disappeared after takeoff
from a Sacramento airfield on Nov. 18, 1942.
A blizzard is believed to have caused the crash
that killed Mustonen, pilot William Gamber, 23, and aviation Cadets
John Mortenson, 25, and Ernest Munn, 23, of St. Clairsville, Ohio.