[UPDATE 8 p.m.] Searchers for Missing Pilot Vow to Work Until Dark Though Heat and Wind Are Taking Their Toll
At 5 p.m. we reached Diana Totten of the Southern Humboldt County Technical Rescue Team which had eight of its swift water rescue crew out on the Eel doing their best to find the missing man. Totten explained the team was working with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue boat. Her crew, she said, had “swimmers in the water checking all the back eddies.” They also had crew members in a rubber raft searching in a two-mile section around the ultralight plane’s wreckage.
Totten said that the pilot’s seat belt had been unlatched. It is possible, she said, that the pilot had managed to bail from the plane and was injured somewhere. However, she worried that the Eel River was running with “its spring flow” and was very swift and dangerous.
Family members and private citizens were still searching as were Totten’s crew and the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team though the Coast Guard and its helicopter had returned to base.
Totten said the crews were determined to keep searching even though the wind was “blowing really hard” and some team members were exhausted with the heat and then the wind as well as the hard work. “We’re going to work til dark,” she vowed.
UPDATE 8 p.m.: Diana Totten tells us that the search is suspended for tonight but, she said, “We will continue the search tomorrow morning…This is a local tragedy. It’s one of the local guys we all grew up with. We’re going to stick with it.”
Totten said some family and friends were still searching the riverbank as dark approached hoping to find their loved one.
Meanwhile, the Southern Humboldt County Technical Rescue Team will go back to their base, spread out their wetsuits to dry, and prepare to head out tomorrow morning. Hopefully, they will get a hot meal (as they had only snacks for lunch and dinner) and a good sleep.
“It’s going to be a late night and an early morning,” Totten said.