VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) _ A lawyer seeking to determine the fate of D.B. Cooper claims to have found part of the parachute the legendary hijacker used to escape from a jetliner 17 years ago Friday with a $200,000 ransom.

Richard Tosaw, of Ceres, Calif., said a diver he hired discovered an 18- inch-wide ''pilot'' parachute Monday in the Columbia River about 5 miles west of Vancouver, which lies across the river from Portland, Ore.

The parachute, which deploys a diver's main parachute, was found about a mile upstream from the spot where $5,800 of Cooper's ransom washed up in 1980, he said.

The 63-year-old attorney said the discovery indicates that Cooper probably landed in the river and died, Tosaw said.

''Everybody's got to be somewhere and that guy is in the river,'' he said.

But the man who packed Cooper's parachute said Tuesday he doubts the pilot parachute came from the hijacker.

''I think it is publicity,'' said Earl Cossey of Woodinville, Wash., near Seattle.

''I'm kind of suspicious. Every year about D.B. Cooper's anniversary they seem to find something. Why don't they find something in July?'' Cossey said. He said the parachute sounds like it is of an earlier generation than the one he packed for the hijacker.

Cooper used the name of Dan Cooper when he boarded a Seattle-bound Northwest Air Lines 727 in Portland on Nov. 24, 1971, the day before Thanksgiving. News accounts initially called him D.B. Cooper, though, and the moniker stuck.

After takeoff, Cooper displayed what an attendant said looked like dynamite and demanded four parachutes and $200,000, which he picked up in Seattle. After the plane took off for Reno, Nev., Cooper jumped out and hasn't been seen or heard from since.

Tosaw, who has written a book titled ''D.B. Cooper, Dead or Alive,'' said he believes Cooper's body is trapped on one of the jetties of telephone poles built into the river about every half-mile to prevent shore erosion. The pilot parachute was found behind one such jetty in about 20 feet of water, he said.

Curtis Rainey, 33, the diver who made the discovery, planned to show the pilot parachute to Cossey over Thanksgiving.

Cossey, a licensed parachute rigger whom Northwest hired to provide gear for Cooper, said pilot parachutes don't bear any identifying marks or registration numbers, unlike the main parachute.

''There are probably a million of those (pilot parachutes) in the world,'' he said from his home.

John Eyer, assistant in charge of the Seattle FBI office, said Tosaw hadn't informed the agency of the discovery.

Tosaw began looking for Cooper seven years ago and said he always times his searches to coincide with the hijacking's anniversary. He said he will resume the hunt next year.

''I'd like to fish him out of there on Thanksgiving Day,'' he said.