Crash, Tillamook State Forest, TRANSPORTATION

Search for possible missing aircraft suspended

Banks Fire District’s Hornshuh Creek Station. Photo: Banks Fire District

Update: At 2:30 p.m., the Banks Fire District announced that the Washington County Sheriff’s Office had officially suspended the search for a possible missing aircraft somewhere in the Tillamook Forest. 

“Ultimately there have been no reports of missing planes/pilots and no beacons or other signs of downed aircraft,” Banks Fire said. 

Pending any further information, “Search crews are satisfied that all available leads (and there have been many) have been exhausted and every available resource was utilized to its fullest potential,” the district said.

Original story below

The possibility of a downed aircraft from Sunday evening has emergency crews back in the areas west of Gales Creek and Banks, searching near the summit of the coast range Monday morning. 

“The search teams would like to emphasize that there are no confirmed reports of a lost aircraft and all search operations are pro-active,” Banks Fire District Public Information Officer Scott Adams said in an update posted to the district’s Facebook page just after 10:30 a.m. Monday. 

According to Adams, a call was dispatched out of Columbia County and the Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District with someone reporting they had seen what they believed to be an aircraft go down a number of miles southwest of their location. 

The search area moved into western Washington County, and now includes the eastern edge of Tillamook County near the coast range summit in the area around the Wilson River Highway (signed as Highway 6). 

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Crews from Banks Fire District, Vernonia Fire, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue and the remotely operated vehicle teams, the U.S. Coast Guard, and others have all been involved in the search for a possible downed aircraft. The Civil Air Patrol is joining the search today with a ground crew. With the county’s SAR team, they are combing the region in off-road vehicles in search of an emergency locator transmitter beacon that a downed aircraft might put out during an emergency.

Some witnesses west of Banks described hearing a loud boom sound, and witnessing what appeared to be a plume of smoke in the Tillamook Forest. 

Photo: Claudia Ramirez Alvarado, used with permission

Tillamook resident Claudia Ramirez Alvarado photographed what appears to be a black spiral of smoke and snapped a photograph as she headed west on Highway 6 in the coast range at 5:05 p.m. The photo, shared with the Banks Post, shows a thin column of black smoke rising at an angle above the tree line in a still-snowy landscape.

“We started to see what was in the picture since we entered the Tillamook Forest,” she said in a message to the Banks Post. The photo was taken a few miles west of the Tillamook Forest entrance sign west of Glenwood.

Emergency crews from multiple agencies are staging out of Banks Fire District’s Hornshuh Creek Station in Buxton, which features a new station and a helicopter landing pad along with sleeping quarters. 

Adams said the station was built for multi-agency situations like this. 

Anyone in the search area that sees anything out of the place is asked to call the Washington County non-emergency dispatch number at 503-629-0111. 

“The entire multi-agency team would like to thank the public and their social media contributions which have been a highly integral part of the search effort,” Adams said.

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Gales Creek Journal and sister news publications the Banks Post and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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