BY MELANIE BUCK –
When the Travel Channel’s Josh Gates rolled into Mena to secretly film his show Expedition Unknown at the Board Camp Crystal Mine, little did he know that he would stumble across someone else with a connection to a previous broadcast of Gates’ second show, Destination Truth. But, that he did, when he stepped into the Skyline Café on Friday, May 26, 2017, and met Brian Ingram, who has a deep connection to the infamous DB Cooper case.
DB Cooper and his hijacking of a Boeing 727 airplane has stumped investigators since November 24, 1971. On that day, a man using the alias Dan Cooper purchased a ticket, hijacked the plane, demanded $200,000 in ransom money, which was paid, and then parachuted from the plane somewhere between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. Although a 45-year investigation by the FBI has followed, Cooper has never been identified.
In 1980, Brian Ingram, who now resides in Mena with his family, was on vacation with his parents and siblings at the Columbia River near Vancouver, Washington. At the time, Ingram was just 8 years old and he and his father were preparing to build a fire on the beach. The bills were significantly damaged, but still bundled in rubber bands, were two packets of twenty-dollar bills each with 100 bills, and a third packet of 90 twenty-dollar bills, all arranged in the same order as when given to Cooper, and having the same serial numbers.
In 1986, the recovered bills were divided equally between Ingram and the aircraft’s insurer. The FBI kept 14 of the bills for evidence. In 2008, Ingram sold a portion of the bills he found, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Gates recently recorded a two-hour episode on the case on his show, Destination Truth. The episode shows home video of a young Ingram on the beach in Washington with the money still in the sand. Little did he know, Gates would find himself face-to-face with Ingram while in Mena, due to a chance meeting.
When Gates was spotted at the Skyline Café, a friend of Ingram’s noticed him and explained that he is friends with Ingram. Not wanting to pass up the chance to meet someone connected to the Cooper case, they called Ingram up and he came immediately to the café to sit down and talk about his boyhood find. As the two enjoyed sipping on coffee and exchanging stories about the case, fast friends were made. Afterward, Gates and crew explored a few corners of the county before going to Board Camp Crystal Mine to film an upcoming episode of Expedition Unknown.