Judge dismisses lawsuit over Amelia Earhart search

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday dismissed a
Wyoming man’s claims that an aircraft recovery group secretly found
wreckage of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart’s missing airplane in the
South Pacific but kept it quiet so it could continue raising funds for
the search.
District Judge Scott Skavdahl on Friday dismissed the
lawsuit that Timothy Mellon filed last year against the
Pennsylvania-based International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery
and its executive director, Richard E. Gillespie.
Mellon claimed
the group found Earhart’s Lockheed Electra in 2010 but kept it secret to
collect $1 million from him for the search. He is the son of the late
philanthropist Paul Mellon.
Earhart was trying to become the first
female aviator to circle the globe when she and her navigator, Fred
Noonan, disappeared in the South Pacific in 1937.
International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery has staged repeated
expeditions to look for her plane, narrowing its search most recently to
the waters around the Kiribati atoll of Nikumaroro, about 1,800 miles
south of Hawaii.
Lawyers for the group and Gillespie have
maintained Timothy Mellon’s lawsuit was absurd. They said discovering
conclusive proof of Earhart’s plane would be far more lucrative through
film and other publicity than continuing to raise money to search for
Expert witnesses for Mellon filed statements in court earlier
this year saying they saw similarities between parts of Earhart’s plane
and objects shown on video of the ocean floor from the aircraft recovery
group’s 2010 search.
However, in his ruling Friday, Skavdahl said
underwater video showing objects that may appear similar to airplane
parts wasn’t good enough to keep Mellon’s lawsuit alive.
"To be
sure, there is dispute about what can be seen in the 2010 expedition
footage and the source of any man-made objects identified. And whether
Defendants found the wreckage in 2010 is disputed," Skavdahl wrote.
"However, there is no evidence in the record that, in fact, the Earhart
wreckage lies on the ocean floor off of Nikumaroro and defendants knew,
or should have known, that fact upon review of footage from (the
Gillespie said Friday the group hopes to move on and
continue its search. He said Mellon’s lawsuit has cast a shadow over
its fundraising efforts for another planned expedition to search waters
around Nikumaroro this fall.
"We have no desire to fight with Mr.
Mellon any further on this," Gillespie said. "We’re willing to bury the
hatchet and move forward to really find out what happened to Amelia
Gillespie said he’s frequently asked why it’s important
to find conclusive proof of what happened to Earhart, now close to 80
years after her disappearance.
"People still make decisions in
their lives because of the example that Amelia Earhart set. And so, in
that sense, she’s still very much alive in the American consciousness,"
Gillespie said. "Because she matters to people, her fate matters to
people. We don’t want to leave that door dark."
Tim Stubson, a Casper lawyer representing Mellon, said it’s too soon to tell how his client will respond
to Skavdahl’s ruling.
we’re disappointed with the judge’s decision," Stubson said. "But as
far as appeal and those sorts of things, we need to study the order more
closely, and Mr. Mellon needs to give some thought on what next steps