UPDATE – MONDAY 12PM:
The search for a missing plane that took off from Cranbrook last week is ongoing, as military and civilian search and rescue personnel continue to scour the Kootenay region.
A Piper Warrior aircraft carrying Alex Simons and Sidney Robillard took off from Cranbrook on Thursday evening en route to Kamloops, however, the aircraft never arrived.
The 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron out of CFB Comox has been utilizing Buffalo aircraft and Cormorant helicopters and are being aided by PEP Air civilian volunteers.
Major Stefan Szkwarek, the deputy commander of the air task force, says inclement weather over the weekend hampered the search efforts, but adds that the 442 is using every resource it can to conduct the search.
“One of the issues is the mountaintops,” Szkwarek said. “if the caps are at 10,000 feet and the clouds start at 6,000 feet, we can’t search the mountains adequately visually, so we have to go and return to those areas afterwards, so it prolongs the search.
“We’re doing absolutely everything we can here and everyone is pushing to their limits to find this airplane.”
With no cloud cover on Monday, SAR personnel are hoping ramp up their visual sweeps.
“Time is of the essence, obviously,” Szkwarek said. “We’re working as quickly and as safely as we can. It is a 150-nautical mile track that we’re centring on between Cranbrook and Kelowna and the search area is 10 nautical miles on each side of that track.”
A CP-140 Aurora has also conducted a sensory sweep of the area to search for any signals, but that hasn’t turned up anything. A 406 beacon signal was reported, however, it is very weak and the military can’t direction-find it, Szkwarek said.
“It could be a red herring at this point, but we’re leaving no stone unturned on that and if we pick up on a harder ping, then we will absolutely prosecute it,” he added.
The missing aircraft, with call letters CGDTK, was piloted by Simons after taking off from Lethbridge early Thursday morning. Thunderstorm conditions were prevalent in the area when the aircraft took off from the Canadian Rockies International Airport later that day.
After failing to report in Kamloops, a search was launched on Friday, supported by by the 442 squadron and civilian volunteers.
UPDATE – SUNDAY 2PM:
Nearly 20 aircraft are still searching for a two people missing after a flight from Lethbridge, AB, to Kamloops went awry. The Sunday afternoon search team includes 1oo military personnel, more than 10 civilian volunteer aircraft, three Buffalos and two cormorant helicopters, and a CP 140 Aurora to help with electronic search. Organized searches are ongoing throughout the day.
Alex Simons, of Kamloops, and Sidney Robillard, of Alberta, both 21, were travelling were travelling Thursday morning from Cranbook to Kamloops in a single engine piper.
“It’s vast search area for us, so we’re starting from Cranbook and go all the way to Kamloops,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Bryn Elliott, Air Task Force Commander for Kelowna area. “That was his intended track, so we go either side of track and then we search systematically to make sure that we’re hitting every angle, every piece of ground that he could possibly be in.”
The searchers picked up some signals from a 406 Beacon, which is an emergency beacon, but Elliott said that the signal was weak and not confirmed to be from the missing plane.
“We’re in the search and rescue business so we’re going to search as long as we can to cover all of the area,” Elliott added.
UPDATE – SUNDAY 9AM
A 14-plane air search is continuing Sunday for two people who went missing during a flight from Lethbridge to Kamloops on Thursday.
According to 19 Wing Comox public affairs Capt.Dennis Power, the search headquarters have now been switched to the Kelowna Flying Club.
“Today we have four military aircraft continuing the search and nine or 10 aircraft owned by volunteers from the Civil Aviation Search and Rescue Association,” said Power, noting that the search is being coordinated by 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron out of Comox.
“We will be searching all day until last light,” said Powers. “There’s no ground search and rescue because the search area is so wide.”
Search efforts have yet to locate any sign of the aircraft. Anyone with any information is asked to call the tip line at 250-331-8528.
A search was launched Friday evening after an aircraft carrying a young couple went missing as they were heading to Kamloops.
Alex Simons, of Kamloops, and Sidney Robillard, of Alberta, left Lethbridge at about 9 a.m. the day before in a Piper Warrior aircraft, RCMP said.
They stopped at Canadian Rockies International Airport near Cranbrook airport for re-fuelling at about 5 p.m., which was the last known location before the plane was reported missing, according to Lt. Navy Greg Menzies of the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre. Thunderstorm conditions were prevalent in the area at the time.
Rescue crews conducted an air search near Cranbrook on Friday, Menzies said, but bad weather and the mountainous terrain proved for a difficult search.
“There are 192 nautical miles from Cranbrook to Kamloops,” Menzies said.
Search crews are looking along the best known flight path between the two locations, as well as an additional 15 nautical miles on either side of the route’s trajectory.
As of Friday evening, local search crews were on standby at CRIA, said Allister Pedersen, with Cranbrook PEPAir, a volunteer air search and rescue organization under direction of Canadian Armed Forces, and the intensive air search was to get underway early Saturday, with both local and military air crew.
If Simons and Robillard, both 21, are not found by the end of the day, the search will continue Saturday with additional air support, Menzies said.
The Piper aircraft call letters are CGDTK.