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Forestry commission officials identify missing pilot

By Christina Huynh

This article was originally published February 1, 2014 at 10:04 a.m. Updated February 1, 2014 at 10:28 a.m.

The Arkansas Forestry Commission has identified a pilot on Saturday morning who went missing the day before during a wildfire survey in west Arkansas.

Forestry officials said 34-year-old Jake Harrell has worked as a pilot for the commission since 2005 and has "flown many times" on the route he traveled on Friday afternoon. Harrell also is a North Little Rock Police Department employee, the state forestry commission said.

Authorities are still searching for Harrell who went missing after, forestry officials say, he didn't check-in to the communication's central dispatch. His last check-in was at 1:11 p.m. Friday, and pilots usually report back to the commission every 30 minutes while on a wildfire survey flight. Harrell had taken off from Oden in a Cessna 210 single-engine plane and was bound for Wickes, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The commission's spokesman Adriane Barnes told Arkansas Online in a phone call that Harrell had a phone on him and that forestry officials are working with cellphone company AT&T in "pinging" the phone's location every 15 minutes.

The phone has "narrowed the strategy somewhat" in searching for Harrell, but Barnes said the area is a rural, "very mountainous" area. Cell service in the area would be unlikely, she said.

Forestry commission officials are working with several government agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and local law enforcement in Polk and Montgomery County. Barnes said authorities have "gridded out" the Oden and Wickes area and that there are several aircrafts flying over the area looking for Harrell.

"Everything is 110 percent underway and we are going as fast as possible as we can," Barnes said.

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