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Experts refute Wyoming manís claims about Earhart plane

Experts refute claims about Earhart plane

Apr 17, 2014 - By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- Experts retained by an aircraft preservation group say underwater video shot in the South Pacific yields no evidence of the wreckage of the missing plane piloted by aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart.

Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in 1932. She was trying to become the first female to circle the globe when she and her navigator disappeared somewhere in the South Pacific in 1937.

The mystery of what happened to Earhart and the twin-engine Lockheed Electra she was piloting holds a continuing fascination for The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery of Pennsylvania and its executive director, Richard E. Gillespie.

They've staged repeated expeditions to search the waters around the Kiribati atoll of Nikumaroro, about 1,800 miles south of Hawaii.

Wyoming resident Timothy Mellon, son of the late philanthropist Paul Mellon, filed a federal lawsuit against the TIGHAR group and Gillespie last year. Mellon claims they had found the wreckage of Earhart's plane in 2010 but kept the discovery a secret so it could solicit money from him to continue the search.

Mellon, a resident of Riverside, says he gave the group more than $1 million in 2012 to help pay for another South Pacific search.

U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl of Casper last year dismissed Mellon's allegations of racketeering and negligence. Skavdahl has set trial for August on Mellon's remaining claims of fraud and misrepresentation.

At a court hearing last year, lawyer John Masterson representing the defendants told Skavdahl that Mellon's allegations amounted to a "factual impossibility."

Masterson said it was absurd for Mellon to argue the group had found Earhart's plane and kept the search going to fleece donors.

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