An operation is continuing Wednesday to recover the body of an Arkansas Forestry Commission pilot after the wreckage of his plane was discovered Tuesday.
Pilot Jake Harrell disappeared Jan. 31 while searching for wildfires. An intensive search of the rugged, steep terrain he was flying in ultimately revealed the plane's wreckage Tuesday afternoon.
After the crash site was spotted from the air, a National Guardsman was lowered to the site, finding a body that officials believe with near certainty to be Harrell's.
The scene was secured Wednesday night, but recovering the body requires building a road to the remote site in the Ouachita National Forest. It's about three miles from a main road near Glenwood in Montgomery County.
Adriane Barnes, a spokesman for the commission, said crews have dozers and chainsaws and hope to complete the access road by late Wednesday.
“We are in the process of carefully accessing this scene so that we can lay our brother to final rest," Montgomery County Sheriff David White said in a statement. "The mountainside is difficult to get into and we predict it may take all day to complete a road to that area. We will do whatever we’ve got to, to get it done."
The 12-day search for the wreckage was complicated by poor weather and a large, remote search area that at one point covered 2.6 million acres. The wreckage site was about 26 miles from Harrell's last check-in point near Oden, which served as a starting point for the search effort.
Harrell also served as a North Little Rock police officer. The North Little Rock Police Honor Guard and Arkansas Forestry Commission Law Enforcement members will escort the body from the scene once it is recovered, officials said.