- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

MENA, Ark. (AP) - Winter weather conditions and poor visibility continued to hamper searchers looking for a missing Arkansas Forestry Commission pilot and airplane, a commission official said Saturday.

“We tried to lift off several times, but it (searching) was all on the ground,” said Adriane Barnes, a commission spokeswoman. “It’s just that visibility is bad. Hopefully tomorrow (Sunday), with good visibility, we’ll have the whole fleet in the air” with helicopters and airplanes.

The search for missing commission pilot Jake Harrell and the plane began Jan. 31 when he disappeared after taking off from Oden, bound toward Wickes in search of wildfires.

Barnes said the snow and ice has not only hampered searchers, but may have covered any wreckage of the aircraft.

“If there’s a plane that we’ve flown over four times it’s still there coated in snow,” she said. “And that’s what we’re worried about.”

She said the mission is still a search operation in hopes that Harrell has managed to survive in the rugged, mountainous region for more than a week.

“We’re doing our best to encourage our searchers,” Barnes said. “We won’t go home until he does.”

The search area includes about 950,000 acres across three counties and is generally focused along, as well as north and south of, a line that is believed to be Harrell’s flight path from Oden to Wickes.


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