Possible D.B. Cooper chute investigated
By CASEY MCNERTHNEY
The FBI has obtained a parachute found where hijacker D.B. Cooper is believed to have jumped, and the bureau is seeking the public's help in what may be a major break in the world's only unsolved hijacking.
The parachute -- similar to the one Cooper jumped with -- was unearthed earlier this month after a Clark County man plowed part of the rural property he's owned for nearly a decade, said Larry Carr, the lead agent on the Cooper case. The man's children found the parachute when they were playing and Carr, who is based in Seattle, retrieved it from southwest Washington.
"If D.B. Cooper had pulled his chute not long after that jump, he would have landed in that area," Carr said. "Is this D.B. Cooper's parachute? We don't know yet."
On Nov. 24, 1971, a man who identified himself as Dan Cooper boarded a commercial Portland-to-Seattle fight and demanded $200,000 and four parachutes.
One of the parachutes was left on the plane; another was cut to secure the ransom money he leapt with about 20 miles north of Portland, going 196 mph, 10,000 feet in the air, according to FBI records.
Carr said Cooper's backup parachute was sewn shut, and the working one he jumped with was a Navy-issue NB6. But Carr can't find identifying markings on the worn parachute or the container in which it was packed. He is hoping someone with expert knowledge of NB6 parachutes can assist in the effort.
"If this canopy can be traced to an NB6 backpack, it will start looking pretty good," Carr said.
The weather was stormy the night Cooper jumped, with a wind chill well below zero at the plane's altitude. Carr and Ralph Himmelsbach, the retired FBI agent who spent eight years on the Cooper case, have said he was likely an inexperienced, overconfident criminal who died the night of the hijacking. The FBI has investigated nearly 1,000 suspects.
None of the $200,000 ever made it into circulation, though $5,800 worth of the frayed bills were found along the Columbia River in 1980. And that creates another complication for FBI investigators.
Carr said that if Cooper landed where the parachute was found, it would be impossible for the ransom money to end up where it did by natural means.
"No matter what you do with this case," Carr said, "the mystery deepens."
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