Sheriff’s Office Releases More on the Finding of the Missing Southern Humboldt Man’s Body

Plane and searchers

[Image provided by Southern Humboldt County Technical Rescue]

Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

On May 4th at approximately 2pm a search and rescue effort was initiated in the McCann area east of Weott for the pilot of an ultra-light aircraft that had crashed into the main fork of the Eel River. Family members and friends of the Pilot, 61 year old Rex Whitlow, responded to the crash site moments after the crash occurred to find the air craft upside down in the river. The pilot could not be found.

Cal Fire, members of the Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue Team, and members of the Fruitland Ridge Volunteer Fire Department also responded to assist in the search. Members of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team later arrived and assisted in the search with their river rescue boat. A U.S. Coast Guard Helicopter also responded and assisted in the search for the missing pilot. The initial search lasted until dark and did not result in locating the pilot. Search efforts resumed the next morning and continued throughout the day; however search teams were still unable to locate the missing pilot.

Search efforts resumed over the next several days for the pilot who was presumed to be underwater. At one point cadaver search dogs were utilized in the search. The dogs were of assistance however were still unable to determine the exact location of the pilot. Search efforts were hindered by swift and murky water, and by high winds.
On Sunday May 14th at approximately 2pm, family friends who were still searching the area finally located the body of Pilot Rex Whitlow in a shallow area of the river nearly three miles from the original crash scene.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office would like to give special thanks to the friends and family of Rex Whitlow who were extremely diligent and persistent in their search efforts. The community is deeply saddened by the loss of lifelong McCann resident, Rex Witlow.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

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11 comments

  • Several friends who knew Rex said he was a great person. Condolences to friends and family. But…..last report written was “body was found near crash site”. Now, he was located 3 miles from crash site. Quite a difference in reported info. Reports like this are how media can cause problems within the public. Maybe not so much in this case, but in a case like the Lawson killing. In regards to a death or serious issues, info should be checked as ‘fact’ before putting it in print to avoid misconceptions. Not to get on Kym because she does a great job, but media reporting is often the cause of public unrest and problems. Again, not meant to criticize Kym’s great reporting. Just pointing out what can happen.

    • Perhaps the problem is how people interpret words. Below is an exact quote from my earlier post:

      According to Diana Totten of the Southern Humboldt County Technical Rescue Team, “At approximately 2 p.m. the body of the missing pilot from the May 4 plane crash was located in the Eel River in the water…The body was located not far from the crash site.”

      Diana was there and she said “not far from.” To her, a three-mile distance from an aerial crash appears to not be a long distance.

      I really don’t know what I can do better than quote an eyewitness.

      • My bad for not remembering the ‘near’ or ‘not far from’. I was not saying anything against your reporting. You do a great job and service to the people of Humboldt. You are right with the word ‘interpretation’. To me, 3 miles on the river bar is quite a distance from the crash site. Your reporting is a great service to Humboldt, and you do a great job at it. Not with you or in this case, I feel that media reporting sometimes sets people up for different interpretation, which causes conflict; and that is their goal. Thanks again for the great work !!!!

        • Livin’ Easy, I was trying to show what “media” (which is not this single-faced thing but something that encompasses everything from Rush Limbaugh, to the New York Times, to Amy Goodman) deals when trying to report a story. We can’t be everywhere and witness everything. Most of us though are doing our best to present the truth to you BUT we’re often reporting based on witnesses’ perspectives which may or may not agree with what you would say in the same circumstances. I’m often basing my posts off of scanner information or Dispatch notes which are the best available at the time but are subject to revision when more information comes in. I try to balance the public’s need to know versus how solid the information is. It’s a delicate balance and I don’t always succeed in getting everything right. When I get it wrong, I try to find out what is correct and update.

  • And we are ever so greatful you do! Thanks Kym. Hope this is a good day😩

  • I’ve done journalism and putting people’s feet to the fire is no more important than today, with all the fake news from the WP and the NYT. We have to be vigilant of especially purposeful misreporting, as is rampant in DC right now.

    Three miles would not be interpreted by any intelligent person as “not far,” unless perhaps you were in the vast deserts of the Sahara.

    The real issue is these “pro’s” could not find the body and amateurs – people who really cared – did the job. Embarrassing.

    • So you think next time a volunteer searcher gives me information after spending days of their free time scouring a river in order to help a grieving family, I should put their “feet to the fire?”

      That’s not going to happen.

      And “not far” is a relative term. For instance, I read the same term and the same three mile description and didn’t see anything wrong.

      I try very hard to provide accurate information but, if your standards require this, I might not be the reporter you want to read.

    • I was thinking by this time, with the rate of flow of the river that the body would already be out in the ocean, and that there was no way anyone was going to find something. Was the body downstream from the crash I assume? 3 miles is nothing with the time that has elapsed.

    • Advocate for volunteers

      “The real issue is these “pro’s” could not find the body and amateurs – people who really cared – did the job. Embarrassing.”

      Stormy, were you helping with the search or are you an armchair responder? Let me tell you that the size, depth and breadth of the search area and the conditions made finding Rex difficult at best. There is no embarrassment for the “pros”. Finding Mr Whitlow was what was important.
      And finding him was by chance and a matter of time.
      The professionals, paid, and mostly volunteer unpaid firefighters (on Technical Rescue, donating their lives and time from work) spent so many hours, calories, and money helping search for a needle in a haystack. The amount of money spent to facilitate finding Mr. Whitlow is huge. Are you going to donate to Technical Rescue to help recover funds spent? Did you volunteer to help in an official capacity?
      What really pisses me off is your statement about “amateurs-people who really care”. Our volunteers are dedicated, trained and CARING people. They were there. For FREE.

  • To the idiots bashing kyms go back to thunder dome

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