OLYMPIA - The Washington State Department of Transportation is searching for a missing plane in rugged forest land near Queets that abruptly dropped off radar Monday evening.
WSDOT Air Search and Rescue was notified of a missing 2006 Cessna T182 Turbo Skylane piloted by Rod Collen on Monday evening. Search efforts began that night and has included air searches on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday when the weather permitted safe flying conditions. Law enforcement and others have been patrolling roadways in the last known position area as well.
Collen left the Tacoma Narrows Airport at 5:35 p.m. on Monday; and a few minutes into the flight the plane’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system was either turned off or malfunctioned and the plane was no longer visible on normal tracking systems the air traffic controllers use. With the help of a specialized radar forensics team, primary radar returns were located that placed the aircraft near the coast between Lake Quinault and Queets. The final radar plots show the aircraft made a very rapid descent to the ground. Collen was the only one in the plane.
No signal has been detected from the plane’s Emergency Locator Transmitter since it went off radar, but search officials have narrowed the search area to a 36-square-mile section of forest land with rugged terrain and some logging activity. The amount of snow on the ground has hampered searchers’ ability to spot the plane from the air. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Quinault Natural Resources crews have patrolled roads near the areas but the section is too large and rugged to send in ground search crews until the search can be narrowed to a more specific site.
The area where the plane descended is on Quinault tribal land near Queets near the Jefferson and Grays Harbor county line. The area is on the Olympia Peninsula along Washington’s coast.
The search remains active, but crews are waiting for new developments or a weather change before flying search aircraft again. Anyone who thinks they saw or heard the plane Monday or spotted anything in the area should call the State Emergency Operations Center at 800-258-5990 with details. The plane’s tail number is N24289. At this time search officials do not need volunteers to conduct either air or land searches as that may overlap or hamper already searched areas or new missions.
The search has been conducted with an aircraft from WSDOT as well as Coast Guard crews out of Port Angeles. WSDOT also is coordinating with the Quinault tribe, Jefferson and Pierce county sheriff’s offices, the Tacoma Police Department and the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center.
Updates on the search will be posted on the WSDOT blog. Email updates from WSDOT are also available online by signing up and selecting the Emergency news “air search and rescue” option. Barring new developments – which would be announced on the blog – the next update is planned for 10 a.m. Sunday, March 12.
WSDOT, by statute (RCW 47.68.380) is charged with the coordination and management of aerial search and rescue within the state. The agency works in conjunction with volunteer search and rescue groups, law enforcement and other agencies, such as the U.S. Navy, in carrying out such searches.