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Search funding request OK’d

CARSON CITY — A legislative panel on Thursday approved a request to allocate $419,000 to the Office of the Military to offset some of the agency’s costs for last fall’s search for missing millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett.

The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee voted to take the money from an emergency assistance fund.

The Office of the Military said the money is needed to train Nevada National Guard members for deployment in support of troops abroad.

The state spent more than $1.6 million on the search for Fossett after he left on what was to be a short flight Sept. 3 from hotel magnate Barron Hilton’s Flying M Ranch near Yerington. The National Guard spent $1.4 million of the total, mainly by providing helicopters. The search lasted 17 days, but Fossett was not found.

The cost of the search, which used Black Hawk helicopters at a cost of nearly $5,000 an hour, was criticized Wednesday by Secretary of State Ross Miller. He said Gov. Jim Gibbons did not exercise proper oversight of the search, which an audit described as “the largest search and rescue effort ever conducted for a person within the U.S.”

Gibbons defended the search, saying the state made every effort to find Fossett while he may still have been alive.

During a debate on the funding request, Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, asked if everyone would have received the same kind of attention if they went missing. The audit suggested that politics played a role in the size and length of the search, she said.

But Titus said it was the state Division of Emergency Management that directed the search. The National Guard just did what was asked of it.

“I figure if I went down out there, I’d be lucky to get somebody with a flashlight and an old hound dog,” she said.

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