FOX16.com

Cause of AFC Plane Crash Still under Investigation

The search operation of the mission was concluded Wednesday with an honor guard escort for fallen hero pilot Jake Harrell.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - An investigation is underway in Montgomery County at the scene of the plane crash that killed Arkansas Forestry Commission pilot Jake Harrell.

The wreckage was found Tuesday afternoon but Harrell's remains could not be retrieved until Wednesday in the dense forest that required the building of a road to reach the site.

See the latest AFC news release for additional details:

MENA, AR (News release) - A scholarship Fund has been set up for Jake and Jaime’s son. This fund is open at all Simmons First National Bank and Metropolitan Bank locations. Donations can be taken to any of those banks; individuals should reference the fund by name (Brayden Harrell Scholarship Fund) to contribute. 

Funeral arrangements for Jake have been coordinated for Saturday, Feb. 15 at the First Assembly of God Church in North Little Rock at 4501 Burrow Road. Services will be held at 10 a.m. Visitation will take place at the same location, tomorrow from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. 

“We will do all that we can to honor our brother and friend in the days to follow. We cannot begin to thank so many responsible for helping us bring him home. We stand in absolute gratitude and thanks to our partners and friends who have supported us through this incident,” says Billy Black, Incident Commander and AFC Law Enforcement Officer.

The downed plane that Jake piloted on Friday, Jan. 31 remains in Montgomery County – at a location 26 miles away from his last check-in point. From a state highway, this location is three miles into a heavily forested area, where a road had to be constructed by AFC and U.S. Forest Service crews via dozers and chainsaws. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are now at the scene to complete a full examination of the area and aircraft. Montgomery County Law Enforcement will be working with these organizations to wrap up all official scene investigation. No other details about the site or flight will be available until both of these investigations are complete. 

The plane carrying missing AFC pilot, Jake Harrell, was discovered Tuesday at 4:05 p.m. by a Civil Air Patrol plane. This sighting was confirmed by a State Police helicopter. Moments later, a National Guard helicopter also confirmed the sighting and lowered a Guardsman. This Guardsman confirmed that deceased remains were inside the aircraft. Some hours later, after a road was constructed, Jake’s remains were carried from the mountainside by a National Guard Black Hawk helicopter to the Mena Airport. He received the welcome of a true Fallen Hero, and was then escorted back to Little Rock by the North Little Rock Police Department Honor Guard and AFC Law Enforcement officials. The path was lined by countless fire departments from Montgomery County all the way to Pulaski County – standing to honor Jake’s journey back to his home.

The Unified Command structure that has carried this mission since its beginning has remained strong, undivided, and dedicated. The AFC can never repay in full the endless support received  from partners, friends, volunteers, citizens, and others throughout this effort. Though we can never mention and thank everyone, the following partners have been vital to this operation: 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, Arkansas Geographic Information office, local volunteer fire departments, volunteers across Arkansas that offered to assist in search efforts every day, local residents willing to provide information about plane sightings, the Red Cross, and the National Weather Service. We will forever remain in humble gratitude and thanks to all of you.
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