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April 12, 2008

D.B. Cooper's Parachute? — Episode 2: Sorry, wrong material


You may recall all the excitement recently about the news that a parachute (above) was found in the area where D.B. Cooper is believed to have landed back in 1971.

It was exciting enough for my crack reporting team to rouse itself from its collective stupor and make note of the discovery.

Turns out it wasn't Cooper's chute after all.

Says who?

Says someone who ought to know: Ed Cossey, who packed the parachutes provided to Cooper that rainy night in November of 1971.

Here's Gene Johnson's Associated Press story with the details.

    FBI: Parachute found in SW Wash. was not D.B. Cooper's

    Wrong material, wrong design: A tangled, torn parachute found buried in southwestern Washington last month was not that of famed plane hijacker D.B. Cooper, the FBI said Tuesday.

    Investigators reached that conclusion after speaking with parachute experts, including Earl Cossey of Woodinville - the man 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 agency spokeswoman Robbie Burroughs.

    Further digging at the site turned up no indication that it could have been Cooper's, she added.

    A man calling himself Dan Cooper - later enduringly but mistakenly identified as "D.B. Cooper" - hijacked a Northwest Orient Boeing 727 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 Special 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, and he provided the chutes given to Cooper during the hijacking.

    Cossey's been through the drill before. This is the third time the FBI has asked him to examine parachutes to see if 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."

    Despite the cantankerous quote, Cossey seemed to be relishing the spotlight Tuesday. He answered his cell phone "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."

    The FBI didn't necessarily consider the parachute's provenance a setback in the case. Seattle Special Agent in Charge Laura Laughlin noted that the news coverage surrounding its discovery could generate more tips from the public.

    And Carr, the agent who's heading the investigation, took the news in stride, Burroughs said.

    "He was never that sold on the idea that it was Cooper's in the first place," she said.


I just love that federal government Pollyanna-ish twist on the bad news, making it really good news if you look at it their way, to wit: "Seattle [FBI] Special Agent in Charge Laura Laughlin noted that the news coverage surrounding its discovery could generate more tips from the public."

True enough.

And if you give me all your money and possessions outright you'll save the expense of hiring a lawyer to create a will.

April 12, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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