News Release from the Whatcom County Sheriff 7/15/15 12:04 p.m.:
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) initiated a search for a private aircraft that was traveling to Orcas Island from Minnesota with two passengers aboard. The aircraft never arrived on Saturday (July 11th) as scheduled. The aircraft was reported missing to the Washington State Department of Transportation on Tuesday evening. Shortly after 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Civil Air Patrol initiated a search and located an aircraft crash site on Twin Sisters Mountain in Whatcom County (approximately 10 miles east of Acme) .
The incident was turned over to the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office for further investigation and recovery. Aerial photographs of the site that were provided by WSOT indicate that debris is spread over a large area and no signs of human life.
The crash site is in a remote wilderness area with rugged terrain. Whatcom County Sheriff's Office deputies are analyzing the photographs and assessing how the site might best be safely accessed. Sheriff's Office deputies will be coordinating recovery efforts with Whatcom Search and Rescue.
At this point, the identity of the crashed aircraft has not been determined and it is not confirmed that it is the same aircraft from Minnesota that was reported missing.
Bill Elfo, Sheriff - 360-676-6650
Missing Montana plane: UPDATE 12:15 p.m. July 15: The Skagit County Sheriff’s Office has taken over the search for a missing Montana plane as crews work toward wreckage spotted in the search area Tuesday night. No confirmation of either the plane or the remaining two occupants can be made until search crews reach the site.
Further media inquiries should be directed to the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office.
Missing Minnesota Plane - UPDATE 11:30 a.m. July 15: A WSDOT crew this morning located the wreckage believed to be a Minnesota plane that did not arrive in Orcas Island Saturday and was reported missing to authorities Tuesday. The search has been turned over to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, which will work to reach the site and make positive identifications of the plane and occupants. No identification has been made at this time. The wreckage site was found using radar coordinates from the aircraft's last know location on Saturday. Media inquiries should be directed to the Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo, 360-676-6650.
Missing Montana and Minnesota planes - UPDATE 10:30 a.m. July 15:
In response to several inquiries, there is no evidence the two missing planes were involved in any mid-air collision. The Minnesota plane left radar several hours before the Montana plane was last tracked on radar. Search efforts for both planes continue at this time.
Missing Minnesota Plane - UPDATE 9:28 a.m. July 15: WSDOT Aviation Emergency Services has launched a search for a plane due to Orcas Island Saturday which never arrived. The search area is in Whatcom County at this point.
The private plane's two occupants were on vacation in the area from Minnesota and they did not arrive Saturday. We do not have an exact time it was due to Orcas Island on Saturday, just that it didn’t arrive. Family did not notify officials of the overdue plane until Tuesday night. More details will be announced as they become available.
NOTE: This search is separate from the one for a Montana plane that also disappeared Saturday near Mazama. Ground crews are hoping to reach wreckage spotted in that search area Tuesday. No identification of the plane or occupants has been made at this point.
Missing Montana Plane - UPDATE 9:17 a.m. July 15: Ground search crews under the direction of the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office left at 8 a.m. today headed out to wreckage located last night in the general search area for a missing Montana plane. No positive identification of the plane or occupants can be made until crews reach the site. Helicopter air support may also be used I the search as needed.
UPDATE 10:38 p.m. July 14: Search crews looking for a missing Montana plane located wreckage this evening in the general area of where a crash survivor emerged from the woods Monday near Mazama. Crews have not been able to reach the crash site this evening and at this time no identification has been made of either the plane or the two remaining occupants.
The search has ended for the night to protect the safety of crews. It will resume in the morning. Officials will assess whether air crews can be used and also will coordinate ground crew searches with the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office.
This will be the last update tonight. We will update tomorrow as information becomes available.
UPDATE 8 p.m. July 14: Search activities for the missing Montana plane and remaining two occupants continue this evening. Crews will continue searching as long as light and weather allow. Weather has been very good today, the best day since the search began, officials said. We will update again when crews stop for the evening or if there are any other developments.
UPDATE 12 p.m. July 14: Two planes and a Homeland Security helicopter are now searching the area near Mazama for the missing plane. Another helicopter from Snohomish County will join the search shortly.
UPDATE 10:18 a.m. July 14: Searchers are using a helicopter crew from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office to search for the missing plane near Omak today as well as fixed-wing airplanes. The planes are heading out soon, helicopter will launch later this morning or early afternoon.
Officials note the Easy Pass trail area near Mazama is some of the most rough terrain to search in the state. With one of the plane’s occupants’ safe, the search continues for the two remaining occupants and the plane itself.
Update 7:30 a.m. July 14: Search crews in helicopters and fixed wing airplanes will resume searching near Omak this morning for a plane missing since Saturday. Launch time hasn’t been established yet and will depend on weather conditions at the search area.
UPDATE 10:57 p.m. July 13: Naval helicopter crews have called off their search for the night.
Search crews will resume Tuesday morning as light and weather allows. Helicopters may be used again if available and after search needs are evaluated. This will be the final update for the evening.
UPDATE 8:03 p.m. July 13: Naval helicopter crews continue to search for a missing plane near Omak tonight. Fixed wing plane searches will resume Tuesday morning as light and weather allows.
UPDATE 4:41 p.m. July 13: Aerial crews are still mission focused searching for the plane’s location. We are referring calls to the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office for confirmation of the call they received and any ID they’ve been able to make.
UPDATE 4:05 p.m. July 13: We are aware of the reports of a call in to Okanogan law enforcement about a woman saying she’s Autumn Veatch and is in Mazama following a plane crash. We cannot confirm any other information at this time and need to let law enforcement have the time to do their work and confirm what’s being reported.
UPDATE 2:05 p.m. July 13: The missing plane’s tail number has been released. It’s: N8749A. The plane is white and red Beech 35.
UPDATE 1:50 p.m. July 13: Civil Air Patrol (CAP) officials, our partners in the search for the missing plane, have released details about how they use cell phone data to help search for planes. Using this information, crews narrowed the search area for the plane to around Mazama (near Omak), the Lost Lake Airport and the Rainy Pass area.
UPDATE 12:15 p.m. July 13: Weather over the Cascades has cleared, allowing four search planes to launch from Bellingham in the search for a plane that never landed as expected. The planes will launch momentarily and search in Skagit, Whatcom, Chelan, and Okanogan counties.
A fifth plane, which will launch from Spokane, also will join the planes in the search.
Search crews resumed looking for a missing plane Monday morning, under the direction of our agency and the Civil Air Patrol.
Crews are using the last found cell signal – at about 4 p.m. Saturday near Omak to help focus the search in Skagit, Whatcom, Chelan, and Okanogan counties in northern Washington.
A plane launched at 8 a.m. out of Spokane to check weather conditions to ensure it was safe for others to fly. Rain has delayed those subsequent flights but they will launch as soon as given the all-clear.
Aerial crews will search for emergency locator beacon signals as well conducting visual searches of the ground looking for any sign of the plane. Five planes will be used for this search. The rugged terrain is in the Cascade mountains. Ground search crews will be sent in if a targeted location is determined.
The first crews this morning are determining weather conditions over the search area to ensure it is safe to launch more planes in the area.
All three occupants are family members: plane owner/pilot Leland Bowman, (62) and his wife Sharon (63), of Marion, Montana, and their step-granddaughter Autumn Veatch (16) of Bellingham, Washington. The family has provided a photo of Leland and Sharon Bowman and the plane.
Below is an updated timeline of events from Saturday. All times are in Pacific Daylight Time).
- 1:01 p.m. – Plane departs Kalispell, Montana Saturday, July 11, headed for Lynden, Washington.
- 2:21 p.m. – Plane crosses ID/WA state line, near Newport, WA
- 3:21 p.m. – Plane drops off radar near Omak, WA
- 3:49 p.m. – Last signal from a plane occupant’s cellphone, roughly near Omak, WA
- 4:05 p.m. – Time plane was expected to arrive in Lynden, Washington (based on visual flight plan filed before take-off). Plane did not arrive.
We are responsible by state statute for coordination and management of aerial search and rescue within the state. The Aviation Emergency Services Program is operated by our Office of Emergency Management. We are working closely with the Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and other entities on the search.
We will provide updates on this blog throughout the day.