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Harrell to be Laid to Rest Saturday

BY LEANN DILBECK – The recovery mission for Jake Harrell was completed yesterday as Harrell was returned to his family by AFC and NLRPD Honor Guard. Fire departments lined the highway in Montgomery County as Harrell passed to honor the life of a man that many had never met but an entire state felt as if they knew as we were all glued to news releases for 12-days, never ceasing to give up hope that he be found alive. I

Arkansas Department of Emergency Management does confirm that this is one of the largest search efforts in the history of Arkansas – in terms of the vast search area and the many organizations involved.

To honor the life of service and wonderful memory of Jake Harrell, a Brayden Harrell Scholarship Fund has been set up for Jake and Jaime’s son. This fund is open at all Simmons First National Bank and Metropolitan Bank locations. Donations can be taken to any of those banks; individuals should reference the fund by name to contribute. Or you may visit: http://www.simmonsfirst.com/ to find locations and phone numbers; 2) You can also mail checks to a corporate office (make checks to the “Brayden P. Harrell Scholarship Fund”) at this address: Simmons First National Bank; PO Box 7009, Pine Bluff, Arkansas 71602.

Funeral arrangements for Jake have been coordinated for Saturday, February 15th at the First Assembly of God Church in North Little Rock at 4501 Burrow Road. Services will be held at 10:00 a.m. Visitation will take place at the same location, tomorrow from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

“We will do all that we can to honor our brother and friend in the days to follow. We cannot begin to thank so many responsible for helping us bring him home. We stand in absolute gratitude and thanks to our partners and friends who have supported us through this incident,” says Billy Black, Incident Commander and AFC Law Enforcement Officer.

The down plane that Jake piloted on Friday, January 31st remains in Montgomery County – at a location 26 miles away from his last check-in point.

Extreme winter weather conditions, paired with steep, forested, challenging terrain - with few access routes - framed the entire search mission. This image, courtesy of Arkansas Forestry Commission, captures the scene near the plane's final resting place. Notice the special equipment needed to create a path, the heavy woods, ice storm debris still covering the forest floor, and terribly steep mountainside. This area is 26 miles away from Jake's last check-in point, near Oden.
Extreme winter weather conditions, paired with steep, forested, challenging terrain – with few access routes – framed the entire search mission. This image, courtesy of Arkansas Forestry Commission, captures the scene near the plane’s final resting place. Notice the special equipment needed to create a path, the heavy woods, ice storm debris still covering the forest floor, and terribly steep mountainside. This area is 26 miles away from Jake’s last check-in point, near Oden.

From a state highway, this location is three miles into a heavily forested area, where a road had to be constructed by AFC and U.S. Forest Service crews via dozers and chainsaws. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are now at the scene to complete a full examination of the area and aircraft. Montgomery County Law Enforcement will be working with these organizations to wrap up all official scene investigation. No other details about the site or flight will be available until both of these investigations are complete.

AFC spokesperson Adriane Barnes said, “Please be aware that any speculation about the plane or possible cause for the accident, that is circulated or announced at this point, is purely, only speculation. An official report will be available in the future from the National Transportation Safety Board. Only they can provide any more information regarding those details.”

The plane carrying missing AFC pilot, Jake Harrell, was discovered Tuesday at 4:05 p.m. by a Civil Air Patrol plane. This sighting was confirmed by a State Police helicopter. Moments later, a National Guard helicopter also confirmed the sighting and lowered a Guardsman. This Guardsman confirmed that deceased remains were inside the aircraft. Some hours later, after a road was constructed, Jake’s remains were carried from the mountainside by a National Guard Black Hawk helicopter to the Mena Airport. He received the welcome of a true Fallen Hero, and was then escorted back to Little Rock by the North Little Rock Police Department Honor Guard and AFC Law Enforcement officials. The path was lined by countless fire departments from Montgomery County all the way to Pulaski County – standing to honor Jake’s journey back to his home.

The Unified Command structure that has carried this mission since its beginning has remained strong, undivided, and dedicated. The AFC can never repay in full the endless support received  from partners, friends, volunteers, citizens, and others throughout this effort. Though we can never mention and thank everyone, the following partners have been vital to this operation: statewide Arkansas Forestry Commission crews, U.S. Forest Service, Polk, Scott, and Montgomery County Law Enforcement, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas National Guard, Civil Air Patrol, Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, Arkansas Geographic Information office, local volunteer fire departments, volunteers across Arkansas that offered to assist in search efforts every day, local residents willing to provide information about plane sightings, the Red Cross, and the National Weather Service. We will forever remain in humble gratitude and thanks to all of you.

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