BY LEANN DILBECK –
It has been one week today that AFC Pilot Jake Harrell went missing while flying a routine detection flight somewhere between Wickes and Oden. Despite massive air and ground searches, the 34-year old seasoned pilot remains missing. Search crews hearts are heavy but they remain diligent in their efforts to bring Harrell home.
The latest information from AFC officials stated that some 700 square miles were flown yesterday by 15 different aircraft in the airspace over the location that missing AFC Pilot, Jake Harrell, last checked in with AFC Central Dispatch in Malvern on Friday, January 31st. More than 200 people continue to be involved amid ground crews, aerial crews, Incident Command officials, and others. Hopes are high; searchers remain dedicated.
Eight planes from the Civil Air Patrol, four AFC detection planes, and three helicopters from the National Guard and State Police explored areas five miles in all directions of Jake’s supposed flight route between Oden and Wickes. Spotters ride inside helicopters and planes to help survey the ground. Aircraft are exploring new area each day, and also re-exploring previously flown space to double check locations where snow and ice could hide the missing plane.
“Helicopters are checking and re-checking areas from different directions, to ensure that all slopes and angles are covered. Ground crews, too, traveled to locations connected to tips provided by local residents of possible plane sightings and/or aircraft sounds from Friday afternoon.”
Ground crews continue to search areas connected to Jake’s last cell phone frequency and work from tips provided by local residents with possible details concerning hearing or spotting Jake’s plane on Friday. Conditions on routes throughout the Ouachita region continue to be treacherous; each searcher is equipped with a hard hat, compass, extreme cold weather gear, and detailed maps. Ice reportedly fell on one searcher, who was unharmed due to appropriate protective gear. The search is still closed to volunteers, due to the need for a tight accountability system and specialized equipment. All organizations involved with the search are appreciative of the continued thoughts and prayers of all residents, family, and friends.
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 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.