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Ground crews continue search for missing pilot

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was published February 9, 2014 at 12:31 p.m.

Poor visibility has kept aerial flight teams from searching for an Arkansas Forestry Commission pilot who went missing while looking for wildfires, but officials say ground crews are still active.

Jake Harrell went missing Jan. 31 while flying from Oden to Wickes.

Adriane Barnes, a spokesman for the commission, said in a statement that 76 searchers are on the ground Sunday in various locations "based on sightings from local residents, satellite imagery ... and information provided by Jake’s cell phone company."

"Volunteers all over Arkansas have offered to assist in any way possible with the operation," Barnes said in the statement. "It is a wonderful state, full of those willing to lift up this search effort in prayer, support, hope, and concern. The search team continues to be grateful for these offers and concerns."

The search efforts have been hampered by wintry weather as well as harsh conditions in the search area, including steep terrain, thick brush and deep ravines, Barnes said.

Helicopters outfitted with equipment that can reveal "fine details along the ground's surface" will be used when visibility improves, she added, noting officials are considering using drones as well.

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