Multiple sources and FAA records indicate the owner of the small plane believed to have gone down in the Red River Thursday morning was one of the two presumed killed in the crash, along with his friend.
According to an FAA accident report, there are two confirmed deceased, the pilot and one passenger, but officials have not released their names.
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. Richard Lennard is the owner and pilot of the aircraft.
The Caddo Parish Sheriffs Office says they will not identify the pilot until divers confirm they’ve found the plane first, but friends and neighbors have confirmed to KTAL that Ricky Lennard and his friend Scott Hollis were the two who boarded the plane Thursday morning and never returned.
According to the flight plan filed for the aircraft, they were headed to Wilbarger County Airport in Vernon, TX. An early FAA crash report states the crash was due to unknown circumstances.
Plans are in the works for the recovery of the plane, which is believed to have crashed shortly after taking off from the Shreveport Downtown Airport around 10:30 a.m.
The single-engine Piper 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.
A command post has been set up to help coordinate multiple agencies involved in the search and recovery efforts, including federal aviation and transportation investigators.
Search crews were able to narrow down the likely location of the wreckage Thursday by tracking beacon signals from the aircraft. Patches of oil and spoilage floating on the surface of the water led marine units to a location where sonar equipment detected debris in the river that Sheriff Julian Whittington said is “most likely, probably, what we’ve been looking for.”
As of Friday morning, however, there was still no visual confirmation of the objects in the water being the wreckage. Still, officials say they are confident they are in the right location.
That area is just south of I-220 not far from Wells Island Road, and not far from the end of the runway at the downtown airport.
Whittington said Thursday 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.”
According to Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Cindy Chadwick, much of the day is expected to be spent gathering resources, heavy equipment, and divers in an effort that is expected to take all weekend.
Commercial divers are coming in from Morgan City and are expected to arrive Friday evening.
Blount Brothers Construction is bringing a 100-foot barge for the divers to use and put equipment on.
Once the commercial divers arrive, they’ll begin a search at first light Saturday morning and begin diving.