Mena, Ark. – Bad weather Saturday prohibited air searches; though two ground crews were able to work in an area of focus near the cell tower that most likely last communicated with Jake’s cell phone. A new liaison with the National Guard arrived yesterday to put new eyes on maps and gridded search routes; additional US Forest Service regional representatives also arrived to bring added expertise. Officials are hopeful about a day of good visibility and higher temperatures – for aggressive search efforts by land and air. Spirits remain high; a full rescue mission continues first thing today.
Officials continue to greatly appreciate everyone’s support and prayers; however, conditions are not suitable for volunteer crews, especially with fresh ice and snow on the ground. This is a safety decision assessed by risk management factors. An announcement will be made should that change.
As reported this morning – areas of interest are being re-explored, as officials understand that because of snow, the missing plane may be difficult to see as separate from the white landscape. New areas north and south of the search site, too, are being explored and considered. The search area continues to encompass the 950,000 acre landscape described in yesterday’s report, as follows: North and South of Lake Ouachita, over to the state line and Hwy 71, down to the Wickes area, and from there over to Lake Greeson and the Daisy community. Officials continue to place heavy focus on the area between Oden and Wickes, as it was Jake’s intended flight route through that region.
AFC reported on Saturday that satellite imagery from Tomnod is being generated. The AFC is working with this organization to add another front to search efforts by those equipped to survey photos for possible plane locations. The AFC has worked diligently to provide coordinates and details concerning Jake’s last cell phone communication with a nearby tower, as well as the normal flight path that he took along this route. This imagery is an invaluable resource that will assist in search efforts as soon as a day of good visibility takes place. Right now, most images taken since January 31st are cloudy because of weather systems that have moved through.
The Incident Command structure in Mena continues as a Unified Command effort with the following partners involved: 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, local volunteer fire departments, the Red Cross, and the National Weather Service.