Search to continue for plane down near Queets

OLYMPIA — The state Department of Transportation hopes to continue air searches today for a plane thought to have gone down in the rugged forest land near Queets.

Department of Transportation Air Search and Rescue had been notified of a missing 2006 Cessna T182 Turbo Skylane on Monday evening, DOT said in a press release issued Saturday.

The plane, piloted by a man named Rod Collen, abruptly dropped off radar last Monday evening after it left the Tacoma Narrows Airport at 5:35 p.m. that day, DOT said.

Search efforts began that night and included air searches on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday when the weather permitted safe flying conditions. Law enforcement and others have been patrolling roadways in the last known position area as well, DOT said.

No air search was conducted Sunday because of weather, and crews were to evaluate air search efforts again today, DOT said Sunday morning.

A few minutes into the flight last Monday, Collen’s plane’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system was either turned off or malfunctioned and the plane was no longer visible on normal tracking systems the air traffic controllers use, according to the release.

With the help of a specialized radar forensics team, primary radar returns were located that placed the aircraft near the coast between Lake Quinault and Queets. The final radar plots show the aircraft made a very rapid descent to the ground. Collen was the only one in the plane.

No signal has been detected from the plane’s Emergency Locator Transmitter since it went off radar, but search officials have narrowed the search area to a 36-square-mile section of forest land with rugged terrain and some logging activity.

The amount of snow on the ground has hampered searchers’ ability to spot the plane from the air. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Quinault Natural Resources crews have patrolled roads near the areas, but the section is too large and rugged to send in ground search crews until the search can be narrowed to a more specific site, DOT said.

The area where the plane descended is on Quinault tribal land near Queets near the Jefferson and Grays Harbor county line.

At this time, search officials do not need volunteers to conduct either air or land searches as that may overlap or hamper already searched areas or new missions.

The search has been conducted with an aircraft from DOT as well as Coast Guard crews out of Port Angeles. DOT also is coordinating with the Quinault tribe, Jefferson and Pierce county sheriff’s offices, the Tacoma Police Department and the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center.

All who think they saw or heard the plane last Monday or spotted anything in the area should call the State Emergency Operations Center at 800-258-5990 with details. The plane’s tail number is N24289.

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