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Missing plane found in Arkansas County; manhunt in progress

By Lee Hogan

This article was originally published April 2, 2013 at 2:56 p.m. Updated April 2, 2013 at 3:50 p.m.

A missing plane has been found, and manhunt for the pilot is underway, the Arkansas County sheriff's office confirmed Tuesday afternoon.

Sheriff Allen Cheek said the plane was found near the Wilcox Acres area, between the Casscoe and St. Charles communities, about 6:30 a.m.

Cheek said a manhunt for the pilot began shortly after the plane was discovered. K-9s from the Department of Correction have been assisting the search since about 8:30 a.m., he said.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, state police and Homeland Security are also assisting in the search. Federal Aviation Administration officials are not expected until sometime tomorrow, Cheek said.

FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said in an e-mail that the plane found was a single-engine Cirrus SR-22. Lunsford said the plane was found with a collapsed nose landing gear.

FAA's website shows the plane's registered owner to have a residence in Rohnert Park, Calif. The owner's name is not listed.

Lunsford said the manhunt was a police matter, and local authorities are in charge of the search. Lunsford did not comment if FAA officials would help with the search.

Authorities on scene are trying to keep everyone out of the area and set up a perimeter.

Lt. Mike Frost, of the Saline County sheriff's office criminal investigation division, said the plane took off from the Saline County Regional Airport in Bryant.

Frost said Homeland Security agents contacted the sheriff's office Monday night and told them to check the airport for an individual.

Deputies identified the individual in question at the airport about 6:00 p.m. Monday, but the suspect was able to spot police while refueling a plane and took off before being taken into custody.

Frost said he was not sure whether the plane belonged to the suspect.

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