I’m almost twenty thousand words into the second draft of Cooper’s Loot. In this literary suspense novel, a young reporter joins an odd group of characters searching for ransom money stolen by the infamous airline hijacker DB Cooper. In real life, a boy raking sand on the Columbia River found some of that cash more than eight years after Cooper’s jump. That discovery is the subject of this post.
Although the FBI officially believes that DB Cooper’s parachute jump resulted in his death, the discovery of three bundles of his stolen loot makes it a near certainty that the infamous hijacker survived.
In February 1980, more than eight years after Cooper hijacked a Northwest Orient Airlines Boeing 727-100 flight from Portland to Seattle, nine-year-old Brian Ingram found the bundles on Tena Bar nine miles downstream from Vancouver, Washington. The FBI devoted many resources to investigate this find and to develop an explanation on how the money could have ended up buried in sand more than twenty miles southwest from the area where Cooper would have landed.
Despite their efforts, the FBI failed to develop a plausible theory.
Some investigators hypothesized that the money could have drifted down the nearby Washougal River into the Columbia River, from which a dredging operation in 1974 could have deposited the cash onto the beach. But extensive testing by citizen scientists have disproved that possibility. The two biggest debunkers of that hypothesis were: 1) the rubber bands holding the bundles together would have all but disintegrated before the money could ever reach Tena Beach; 2) the flight path of the jetliner made it impossible for the money to have ended up in the Washougal or anywhere near the Columbia River by natural means.
The most reasonable explanation for the cash being found buried in sand at Tena Beach was that a human being put it there. Nobody knows why–except perhaps the man known to the world as DB Cooper.
For more on this real-life, unsolved mystery, an group called “Citizen Sleuths” has conducted scientific examinations of all available evidence and detailed its findings on an excellent website.
Returning to the world of fiction–how does a twenty-two year-old reporter grieving for a husband killed in Vietnam end up on the hunt for DB Cooper’s loot? That will be the subject of my next post.