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Specialized Mapping Guides Help Continued Search for Missing AFC Pilot
Search crews on the ground in Feb. 3 search
MENA, AR (News release) - Spirits are lifted at Incident Command Headquarters in Mena in the continued search for missing Arkansas Forestry Commission pilot Jake Harrell. The State Police helicopter is flying and ground crews are mobilizing, as forecasted winter weather has held off for the morning. Several different strategies are guiding efforts today, based on new possibilities generated by law enforcement officers and National Guard pilots. No idea or conceivable location is being left unconsidered. All teams involved will search until weather shuts down operations.
Detailed maps are keeping track of all activity and possibilities through programming from Esri, an industry standard amid GIS experts. Five GIS technicians work with mapping at IC, alongside support from five others in Little Rock at the Arkansas Geographic Information office. This platform works to generate spatial analysis amid information layers including: Jake’s known flight route, the routine detection route for that area, radar information provided by his cell phone provider, areas that have been searched by ground crews and air routes, leads from local residents, sightings provided by local residents, and speculation from experts about how or why Jake may have changed his flight route on January 31st, after checking in over Oden. With this many elements incorporated into a single visual resource, the search operation continues to build factual evidence that fuels a more organized search. Additionally, Tomnod technology continues to be available and images containing possible search sites are being sent to officials. Drone technology is also being utilized, when the drones do not interfere with airspace operations.
As reported yesterday, 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, 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.
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.