LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Searchers found a missing Arkansas Forestry Commission aircraft on Tuesday, 11 days after it dropped out of contact, but the fate of the pilot wasn't immediately known.
The commission said the plane was spotted at about 4 p.m. Tuesday by the Civil Air Patrol and the sighting was confirmed by a state police helicopter. Ground crews were on the way to the site.
Pilot Jake Harrell, 34, was patrolling for wildfires on Jan. 31 when he failed to make a scheduled check-in and hasn't been heard from since.
The plane was found near Glenwood in wooded and mountainous Montgomery County, where some of the most rugged territory in Arkansas can be found. Searchers struggled with wintery weather after Harrell vanished and most days were unable to use aircraft in the search, leaving it to teams formed from about 100 ground searchers.
Even when aircraft were able to search, the effort was hampered by areas with thick pine trees and snow.
Numerous agencies took part in the search. The territory is so dangerous that officials would not allow volunteers to help look for Harrell. Their work was made more difficult by a December ice storm that pulled down trees and branches that cluttered the forest floor.
Pastor Rob Loy of the First Assembly of God in North Little Rock has acted as family spokesman. He'd said Harrell's wife, Jamie, understood the odds were bad for her husband being found safe but was holding out hope of a happy ending.
Harrell had filled in for a sick co-worker on Jan. 31 and was supposed to have been in the air for two hours.
Forestry officials were uncertain of his route so the search area included up to 2 million acres, equal to more than 3,000 square miles. Rescuers received calls from as far away as eastern Oklahoma and northeast Texas.
Harrell's last known position was near Oden, about 20 miles from where his plane was found.