Search For Missing Forestry Pilot Ongoing During Winter Weather

A state Forestry Commission pilot went missing Friday while flying a plane over Montgomery County, prompting several state and local agencies to join in a search.

The missing pilot is 34-year-old Jake Harrell.

The wildfire detection plane was last heard from at 1:11 p.m. Friday (Jan. 31) near Oden in Montgomery County, said Adriane Barnes with the Arkansas Forestry Commission. She said the pilot was on a regularly-flown detection route covering a western portion of the state, which can be rough terrain.

“We’ve got lots of mountains, lots of steep areas, heavy brush and pine trees,” Barnes said. “What’s also going on here is we’ve got a lot of remaining debris from the ice storm.”

Harrell’s route was taking him from Oden to Wickes. Wickes is located in Polk County, about 25 miles south of Mena.

A command post for search and rescue efforts has been set up at the Forestry Service Office in Mena.

Barnes said Harrell, a seasoned pilot, was flying the single-engine Cessna 210.

“It’s a small single-engine plane with a propeller on the front of it,” Barnes said. “These planes are off-white and they’ve got little orange stripes on the wings.”

Helicopters from the Arkansas State Police and Arkansas National Guard ground crews began searching Saturday morning at daylight, according to the Arkansas Forestry Commission.

Members of the forestry commission said they will be looking day and night until they find Harrell.

“Jake’s a family man, a policeman and pilot,” Joe Fox said. “He gives back way more than what he’s taken.”

Stay with for updates on this developing story.


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