‘Credible lead’ surfaces in D.B. Cooper case

Posted Aug. 01, 2011, at 8:22 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 01, 2011, at 9:27 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The FBI is investigating whether a dead man in the Pacific Northwest is D.B. Cooper, who hijacked a passenger jet in 1971 over Washington state and parachuted with $200,000 in ransom.

Cooper has never been found.

FBI agent Fred Gutt said Monday the bureau is following up a “credible” lead in the unsolved case and is focused on a suspect who died more than 10 years ago.

Gutt said the bureau received a tip from a retired law enforcement source about the dead man possibly being Cooper. FBI agents requested personal effects of the possible suspect, who died of natural causes.

The FBI is trying to find fingerprints or DNA on the dead man’s effects to compare with items the hijacker left behind. The FBI said three years ago that it found DNA evidence on the clip-on tie Cooper left on the plane before he jumped.

The fate and identity of the hijacker dubbed “D.B. Cooper” has remained a mystery in the 40 years since a man jumped from a Northwest Orient Airlines 727 flight with $200,000 in ransom.

The recent tip provided to the FBI came from a law enforcement member who directed investigators to a person who might have helpful information on the suspect, FBI spokeswoman

Federal investigators have checked more than 1,000 leads since the suspect bailed out on Nov. 24, 1971, over the Pacific Northwest. The man who jumped gave his name as Dan Cooper and claimed shortly after takeoff in Portland, Ore., that he had a bomb, leading the flight crew to land the plane in Seattle, where passengers were exchanged for parachutes and ransom money.

The flight then took off for Mexico with the suspect and flight crew on board before the man parachuted from the plane.

Woman killed in fall from Yosemite’s Half Dome

FRESNO, Calif. — A 26-year-old woman fell to her death Sunday while climbing Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

Hayley LaFlamme of San Ramon, Calif., was descending with three friends from the top of Half Dome when she fell 600 feet off the cables, Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.

The area of Half Dome had severe lightning, thunder and rain in the morning and early afternoon Sunday, Cobb said.

The last hiker death on Half Dome was Majoj Kumar on June 13, 2009. Kumar also lived in San Ramon.

The woman’s death marks the 14th fatality in Yosemite since January. The park normally has 12 to 15 deaths a year, but the average by the end of July is between five and six, Cobb said.

Last month, three members of a church group plunged to their deaths at Vernal Fall after they climbed over a protective railing.

Former ski team member attacked by black bear

NEW YORK — Former U.S. Ski Team member Ani Haas says she feels fortunate to have suffered just scratches to her left arm and chest when she encountered a black bear while running in western Montana.

The 24-year-old freestyle skier told NBC’s “Today” on Monday that she was on a trail near her home town of Missoula, Mont., on Friday morning when she saw some cubs scr amble up a tree. The mother bear ran at her. Haas tried to run away, but was not fast enough. She turned around to face the bear and it lunged at her.

Haas hit the bear in the head and threw a rock at it before the bear attacked her again.

Haas says she backed away and the bear eventually lost interest.

$180 million in cocaine seized from drug sub in Caribbean Sea, Coast Guard says

MIAMI — The U.S. Coast Guard has announced the capture of a submarinelike vessel off the Honduran coast and the seizure of some 15,000 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of $180 million.

According to information released Monday by the Coast Guard district headquartered in Miami, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca interdicted a drug-smuggling, self-propelled semi-submersible vessel in the western Caribbean Sea on July 13.

The vessel was initially spotted by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol plane, officials said.

The semi-submersibles are typically built in the jungles of Colombia and are less than 100 feet in length, authorities said. They are usually used to carry a crew of four to five people and a stash of thousands of pounds of drugs up to 5,000 miles. The semi-submersibles are designed to rapidly sink when detected in order to make it difficult for law enforcement to recover the drugs aboard.

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