Missing pilot presumed dead after airplane found crashed on Mount Hood
HOOD RIVER, Ore. – An airplane was found crashed on the north side of Mount Hood on Tuesday, several days after it left a Camas, Washington airfield.
The Hood River Sheriff’s Office said they received a transponder signal near Eliot Glacier, on the north side of the mountain.
KATU's Chopper 2 confirmed that the tail number on the crashed airplane matched the four-person, single engine aircraft that was reported missing from Grove Field Airport.
The sheriff's office later stated that they believe George Regis, 63, of Battle Ground, Wash. was the sole occupant of the plane, and that he is deceased.
According to Clark County deputies, Regis was last seen when he took off from Grove Field airport on Friday, January 25. Investigators say he was likely headed for Arizona or Texas. Grove Field does not require pilots to file a flight plan before taking off.
On Saturday, his cellphone was pinged near the Newberg-Dundee area. Regis's wife reported him missing on Monday. Investigators managed to narrow down his flight path, and on Tuesday they located the transponder signal.
Regis was described as an experienced pilot who’s had his pilot’s license for nearly 20 years.
No word on what caused the plane to go down.
"Unfortunately, it's just too early to even speculate. We really don't know anything about what happened, what transpired to lead to that event," said Deputy Joel Ives, a spokesperson for the Hood River County Sheriff's Office.
Regis's sister-in-law told KATU late Tuesday night that Regis was "an amazing pilot ... and he knew his plane like no other. And I think the investigation will reveal what happened."
She said the family is in shock and sadden by what happened.
A recovery operation will head out Wednesday morning with teams from the Hood River Crag Rats, Oregon Air National Guard's 125th Special Tactics Squadron, and the Air Force Reserve Command's 304th Rescue Squadron. Deputies expect it to start at first light.
Ives said they do not know how long the plane has been on the mountain or when it crashed.
When asked why they didn't know about the crash sooner, Ives said it likely came down to transponder signal strength and proximity.
"You just have to get the airplanes that are looking much closer to the signal to be able to get it located," he said.
Deputies said they'll focus on recovering the body first. They don't know if they're going to retrieve the plane yet due to safety concerns.