LA PUSH — A Richland man authorities are investigating for possibly stealing an airplane from Jefferson County International Airport was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Wednesday morning after a Navy helicopter pilot spotted wreckage of an aircraft in Olympic National Park at La Push, authorities said.
Richard R. Jordal, 59, was in critical condition Wednesday afternoon, said Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.
Quileute tribal spokeswoman Jackie Jacobs said Clallam County firefighters and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office secured the crash site Wednesday morning to turn it over to Federal Aviation Administration investigators. The FBI also will be involved in the investigation.
A helicopter pilot from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island located the plane at about 10:15 a.m. Wednesday, said Sgt. Brett Anglin of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
“The subject is on board the plane with injuries, who is alive,” Anglin said before the man was airlifted for treatment.
Anglin said the sheriff’s office is investigating the theft of a blue and white Cessna 150 from Jefferson County International Airport that was tracked until its GPS signal was lost in the vicinity of the crash.
Jordal is believed to be connected to the theft, Anglin said.
“At this point he is a person of interest,” Anglin said.
“We don’t know the circumstances yet. It’s still under investigation.”
Anglin said an unidentified man unsuccessfully attempted to rent an aircraft from a private aircraft owner at the airport early Tuesday evening.
A Cessna 150, a different aircraft, was later reported missing and was tracked until its signal was lost 10-20 miles north of Hoquiam.
“We later received a report of a plane crash in the La Push area,” Anglin said.
In separate reports to authorities, two Quileute tribal members said they saw a low-flying aircraft in La Push at 10:39 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. Tuesday; one heard an explosion, King said.
“They believed it may have crashed on the reservation or in the national park,” King said Wednesday morning.
“The reports were that they heard what sounded like a crash, but there was nothing visible.”
King said F-18 jets on a training exercise reported seeing a plume of smoke in the general area where the aircraft went down.
La Push police and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office personnel tried looking for the crash site Tuesday night but were halted by weather conditions, Anglin said.
Agencies assisting in the search included Clallam County Fire District 6, La Push tribal police, the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].