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Officials: Missing plane found in mountainous area near Jacksonburg



The Exponent Telegram

WALLACE, W.Va.  — A Cirrus SR20 airplane that went missing Tuesday was located in a remote area of Wetzel County at about 2 p.m. Thursday, according to a Federal Aviation Administration official.

“The FAA will investigate, and the NTSB will determine the cause of the accident,” FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac said, referring to the National Transportation Safety Board.


The plane was located by searchers near Jacksonburg, according to Harrison County Sheriff Robert Matheny.

“The scene was secured, and we then turned it over to the sheriff of Wetzel County and State Police,” Matheny said. “There were no survivors found. In my opinion, it wasn’t a survivable crash.”

An Illinois couple has been unofficially identified as the pilot and wife aboard the plane. Bill and Pat Searcy of southern Illinois have been named by several social media outlets.

Harrison-Taylor 911 Assistant Chief Connie Thomaschek said those are the names she has heard, but she could not officially confirm them.

Delaware Coastal Airport Manager Jim Hickin said the FAA shows the plane departed that facility in Sussex County, Delaware, at 9:07 a.m. Tuesday.

“It was expected to arrive at the destination (Fleming-Mason Airport in Flemingsburg, Kentucky) at 12:15 p.m., according to the FlightAware website,” Hickin said. “The aircraft is registered to SGLJ Inc., Carbondale, Illinois. They were here over the weekend, arrived on Sunday and left on Tuesday.”

The FAA refused to comment on the identification of the people on board the plane.

An incident command center was reopened Thursday morning at Wallace Volunteer Fire Department, where a couple dozen officials and volunteers gathered to help with the search.

“The Civil Air Patrol, Wallace VFD Chief Jay Jenkins, Marion County, Wetzel County and Marion County 911 centers all had representatives here,” Thomaschek said. “The Civil Air Patrol held a meeting at (North Central West Virginia Airport). They sent a representative to the fire department.”

The West Virginia Wing Civil Air Patrol had approximately six aircraft and 17 ground members assigned as part of the operation. A Civil Air Patrol base of operations is set up at the North Central West Virginia Regional Airport in Bridgeport.

“The Civil Air Patrol uses a single-engine Cessna 182, and we have on board equipment so we can hear what is known as an emergency location transmitter — devices that send a signal out after an aircraft has had a sudden impact on the ground,” Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col. Jeffery Schrock said. “Also, we have equipment on the ground that can have the aircraft direct the ground team to the location to investigate.”

The Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer organization that’s an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.

“We provide about 95 percent of search-and-rescue operations that are assigned to us by Air Force Rescue Coordination Center,” Schrock said. “We’re just one of many assets available in addition to local authorities, fire departments and search-and-rescue teams providing help in the search for this missing aircraft.”

Civil Air Patrol Wing Commander Col. Paul McCroskey said 48 members were involved in the search effort before members returned to mission base.

A trio of aircraft performed aerial searches, and four ground teams also participated.

“As volunteers who provide professional service when called upon, our members always stand ready to perform search and rescue activities when needed,” McCroskey said.

The command post shared all information via internet with the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security.

Law enforcement was on scene, and multiple volunteer fire departments from Harrison and Wetzel counties also collaborated in the search of the rough terrain and dense woods.

Wallace volunteer firefighter Marlana Tetrick said it was good to see the coordinated response from the agencies that worked to locate the plane.

“When something like this happens, we try to pull of our resources together and work as a team together. Everyone has really come together,” Tetrick said. “We haven’t given up the whole time.”

She said the everyone did as much as possible to assist with the search.

“We’ve been answering phone calls, taking every lead we have. People have been cooking for the ground crews, taking food and water out to them while they were in the field looking,” Tetrick said. “One of our fire department members has gone over the drone footage piece by piece by piece to see if there was any little thing on his footage. Nobody has given up. It’s bee a group effort from everybody to find these people for their families.”

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