The search for a small plane that went missing Thursday morning has narrowed to an area on the Shreveport side of the Red River where patches of oil and possible debris have been spotted.
“We have not found a plane at the moment,” said Caddo Parish Steve Prator. “We are not confirming this information. We have a location for where the plane is south of Interstate 220. We are searching that area now and are confident we will find something soon.”
Bossier Sheriff’s Office Lt. Bill Davis says the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol unit was able to spot via electronic device “what appears to be the aircraft submerged in the Red River not far from the runway.”
Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington said later Thursday evening that a marine unit using sonar equipment detected debris in the river that is “most likely, probably, what we’ve been looking for.”
According to Davis, those marine units had to pull back one dark fell. The search is expected to resume in the morning. Federal authorities are also expected to arrive on Friday.
Whittington says the coordinates of the location have been marked and the area will be guarded until federal authorities arrive. The depth and swift currents at that location present logistical issues for recovery efforts that he says are still being worked out.
“It’s about 17 feet deep, we believe it’s on the bottom. So, the river’s fast and swift and dangerous, so exactly how we’re gonna get it up is another question.”
Caddo and Bossier agencies expect to coordinate with federal aviation and NTSB investigators in that effort.
“Exactly how you go about raising a plane off the bottom with, we believe, bodies in it is not a thing we do every day, and so it’s gonna take some expertise that probably will have to be contracted out.”
The Malibu Mirage took off around 10:30 a.m. and made a quick turn around before losing contact with the airport traffic control tower, prompting them to call 911 and setting off a search on both sides of the river involving multiple law enforcement agencies, including sheriff’s marine units.
Deputies with the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office were initially searching on foot in an area off of Wells Island Road around 11:30 a.m. Deputies with the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office also put a drone in the air to search the area west of I-220 from above for signs of a downed aircraft.
According to Davis, the last known signal from the aircraft was picked up in an area off of W. Viking Dr. west of I-220.
The single-engine aircraft can carry up to 6 people, but the number of people on board at the time the aircraft disappeared has not been confirmed. Authorities have not yet released details on who was flying the plane or who else might have been on board.
Based on the aircraft registration information provided by law enforcement authorities, the plane is a 1999 Piper Malibu Mirage registered to Lennard Properties out of Shreveport. The fixed-wing, single aircraft seats six, including the pilot. According to the flight plan filed for the aircraft, it was headed to Wilbarger County Airport in Vernon, TX.