Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Even though the MSP stopped searching, area locals did not...

This story is amazing. Even though the MSP stopped searching, area locals did not...
Renewed plane search comes up empty


Tribune Staff Writer

CHEBOYGAN - An area fisherman's tip led to a renewed search Wednesday for a small plane and its two occupants, missing since late August, but the wreckage was not found.

Chief Marine Deputy Allan May said the fisherman's local knowledge of the area led to the search, conducted during a regular monthly training drill for the Cheboygan County Sheriff's Department Dive Team.

“He fished these waters for a long time and knows the bottom contour well,” May said during a pre-dive briefing for six divers aboard two Sheriff's Department boats. “The fisherman had spotted something on his fish-finder that has not been there in the past; he feels that this is something new to the bottom there.”

The dive teams split into pairs and inspected three sites that May had marked last week with global-positioning co-ordinates. The men were towed behind their boat while holding a tow-bar to pull them along the bottom.

The first target turned out to be a bed of weeds, and the second spot divers said was a large, steep sand bar. The dives were conducted in roughly 50 feet of water between Duncan Point and Cordwood Point. Divers said the temperature of the water was 53 degrees at the surface and slightly colder at depth. Each dive lasted between 15 minutes to 18 minutes.

A third dive attempt failed to produce any targets.

“We didn't see the main object today that I saw last week,” May said. “It had a shape that could have possibly been the tail of a plane, but it's hard to say. That's why we're out here to check on it.”

Choppy seas and strengthening winds made conditions less than ideal for the search, May said. He indicated he would return in the near future to again try to locate the target object identified by the fisherman.

The dive team drills every month of the year and works through various search and rescue scenarios in open water, rivers, and small lakes in all conditions, including ice-covered waters.

A Michigan State Police search for the wreckage was suspended Sept. 17.

The small plane left Mackinac Island with two passengers at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 24 en route to Bad Axe. Reported to be aboard the plane are pilot Karen Dodds, 51, of Washington, D.C. and her passenger and fiance, H. Brooke Stauffer, 55, also of Washington D.C.

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