Poor Visibility Halts Aerial Search for Pilot

MENA, AR (News Release) -- Bad visibility is preventing aerial search efforts for the day. Ground crews, totally 76 searchers, are deployed to locations based on sightings from local residents, satellite imagery from Tomnod, and information provided by Jake's cell phone company. Every resource available, within the confines of safety, is being utilized by the search operation. Experts from the National Guard, US Forest Service, Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC), Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, and law enforcement in surrounding counties is taking part in mapping search routes and analyzing possibilities. Personal, in-depth interviews and phone calls continue to be conducted with local residents that may provide information to Jake's location.

Volunteers all over Arkansas have offered to assist in any way possible with the operation. It is a wonderful state, full of those willing to lift up this search effort in prayer, support, hope, and concern. The search team continues to be grateful for these offers and concerns. Extremely cold, icy weather conditions, paired with steep terrain and ice storm damage, thick brush and forest, and deep ravines, all present extreme risk factors for officials to consider before deploying any search parties, especially those including volunteers. Search and Rescue (SAR) trained officials are part of those in Incident Command that have come to the decision to consider safety first and training second when involving any crews. National Guard and SAR-trained search parties are on standby should weather conditions improve and risk factors change. The Unified Command is making decisions based on safety concerns.

Drones are being considered as another tool for the search team, as long as they do not conflict with manned aviation efforts. Helicopters involved from the National Guard, Arkansas State Police, and US Forest Service have specialized equipment that can zoom close enough to spot fine details along the ground's surface. Multiple crew members ride inside helicopters to provide search ability along all angles of the landscape. It is believed that this capability is a strong resource toward locating Jake. Helicopters will continue to be utilized, and drones could be as well, should they help with search efforts.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 County 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.

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