The Arkansas Forestry Commission, Polk and Montgomery Law Enforcement, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas National Guard, U.S. Forest Service, Arkansas State Police, Emergency management crews from Polk and Montgomery County, local volunteer fire departments, and the Civil Air Patrol continued aggressive search efforts Saturday for [Arkansas Forestry Commission] AFC pilot Jake Harrell, who failed to check in after 1:11 p.m. Friday afternoon. Low visibility made aerial search efforts difficult. Ground crews were able to more effectively search the area. As of nightfall Saturday evening, AFC officials said the search would continue throughout the night.
Harrell was flying a regularly scheduled detection flight from Malvern to points throughout west Arkansas but failed to check in with AFC Central Dispatch yesterday.
Harrell is 34-years old and is a seasoned pilot with the AFC, since 2005. He had flown many times on the very route that he traveled yesterday. He currently flies as a part-time pilot and works full-time with the North Little Rock Police Department. He also serves with the Arkansas Air National Guard 188th Fighter Wing.
“We are going to be here until we find Jake. Tonight and tomorrow’s efforts are already planned and we are aggressively covering as much ground as quickly and safely as possible,” said State Forester, Joe Fox.
In depth strategy is in place for crews arriving this evening, tomorrow, and even Monday. Experts in search and rescue, aviation, and the Ouachita National Forest terrain are all included amid strategies. The predicted weather forecast is being closely monitored and search strategies will be tailored to safety precautions needed during icy weather.
Ground crews include two and three-person teams searching gridded locations in Montgomery and Polk Counties – close in proximity to a possible route he may have been flying between check points in Oden and Wickes. Crews are searching by foot and four-wheelers. Chainsaw crews and dozers are on standby. Two Civil Air Patrol planes and a National Guard helicopter assisted with search efforts from the air.
The Incident Command structure in Mena is a Unified Command team with the following partners involved: Arkansas Forestry Commission, Polk and Montgomery Law Enforcement, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas National Guard, U.S. Forest Service, Arkansas State Police, Emergency management crews from Polk and Montgomery County, local volunteer fire departments, and the Civil Air Patrol.
The Pulse will follow their efforts and continue to deliver updates to you as they become available.