Recovery of Crashed Plane Again Suspended as Tides Interfere; Raymond Miller, Presumed Dead, Still Not Positively Identified
FlaglerLive | October 5, 2014
Last Updated: 9:01 p.m. Sunday
Note: The Florida Highway Patrol, which is investigating the plane crash, issued the following statement Sunday evening:
“The Florida Highway Patrol has announced that the recovery efforts for the aircraft and pilot have been suspended again until 8 a.m.[Monday] morning. Federal officials and recovery specialists coordinating the recovery have been on scene making preparations to remove the aircraft from the crash scene. Due to the incoming tides, the removal efforts have been hindered causing additional challenges and hazards for emergency personnel. As the tides recede, personnel will return to the site and continue preparations for the recovery tomorrow morning. The identification and location of the pilot have not been confirmed at this time. Investigators from the FAA and NTSB have been on scene today and will provide additional information on their respective investigations as it becomes available.”
The FAA is the Federal Aviation Administration. The NTSB is the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates all plane crashes.
FHP released the first image of the plane crash, showing the silver-colored wreckage in the middle of a marsh, and the plane itself broken in two, with smaller debris surrounding it in tall grass.
Palm Coast’s Raymond Miller Presumed Dead After Missing Plane Is Located With Help From Air Force; Reaching Marshy Site a Problem
The wreckage of the silver-colored experimental plane that went missing Friday after taking off from the Flagler County Airport in the morning was discovered deep in the marshes of Pellicer Creek in northeast Flagler County at 1:30 p.m.
Palm Coast’s Raymond Miller, 77, had built the plane last year and was piloting it. He had left the airport at 9 a.m. Friday. He is not believed to have survived, but rescue crews were on their way to the wreckage at 5 p.m. Saturday, after various attempts to reach the wreckage failed until a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission air boat and another air boat from mosquito control were secured.
But by evening Saturday the recovery operation was still scuttled by the difficult terrain, and it wouldn’t be until Sunday at the earliest that Miller could be reached and recovered. Sunday morning, the Florida Highway Patrol issued the following statement: “The Florida Highway Patrol and other assisting agencies have suspended the rescue/recovery operations of the suspected plane crash until 9 a.m. [Sunday] morning. Due to the complexity of the terrain, possible safety hazards for personnel, and limited light conditions, the difficult decision was made to temporarily suspend these actions. Appropriate personnel and equipment will be in place to resume these efforts by 9 a.m. or earlier. If any additional information becomes available, it will be forwarded to our media partners accordingly.”
Rescuers had been expected to reach the plane site at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Flagler County Undersheriff Rick Staly said late Saturday afternoon.
The plane was located after the search was narrowed thanks to help from the Air Force. Until then, searchers were looking from air and ground over vast swaths of ground and sea.
Reports of Miller’s disappearance reached the Sheriff’s Office at 8 p.m. Friday. “We started looking for him then,” Staly said. “We’d pretty much exhausted all leads we had last night about midnight, plus there was the weather conditions, so we shut down the search. This morning at 6 a.m. we started search again.”
The search involved numerous agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Coast Guard, which had a C-26 and a C-130 plane in the air and two Coast Guard boats, FWC, help from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board (which will eventually conduct a full investigation of the crash), support from the Navy, which launched a helicopter of its own, and crucial assistance from the Air Force Search and Rescue unit and from the Civil Air Patrol, Florida Wing, out of Lakeland.“Those combined efforts, specifically from the Air Force, allowed us to triangulate a possible location for the aircraft in a three square-mile area that borders St. Johns and Flagler County,” Staly said. “Up until then the only information we had was that he took off from Flagler County Airport at about 9 a.m Friday and flew in a northeasterly direction, so we were searching Flagler and about a thousand square miles of the Atlantic. After we got a more narrowed location, Civil Air Patrol, the FWC helicopter and Flagler Fire Flight converged into the smaller area and Fire Flight spotted the wreckage in a heavily marshed area of Pellicer Creek.”
FWC tried to walk some people in but was unable to do so. “We are using an air boat and some flat-bottom boats to try top get to the wreckage. It’s a very difficult area to get to,” Staly said. “Our agency does not own an air boat.” (SDtaly and Sheriff Jim Manfre may soon have discussions about adding an air boat to the sheriff’s inventory.)
Staly had taken a flight with Fire Flight, but from the air he said the cockpit of the plane was not visible.
So far he had limited information about Miller. “He was an experienced pilot who did not have a lot of time in this aircraft. That’s what I have been told,” Staly said.
Absent foul plan, which Staly said he did not expect, the scene of the wreckage will be turned over to the Florida Highway Patrol, which investigates plane crashes as it does vehicle crashes. The NTSB then follows. The wreckage is not likely to be removed any time soon, as it will need a salvage company and an operation of its own.
At 2:46 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office issued had the following statement: “Due to the remote location, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation have been asked to respond by boat. Medical units are also responding as it is unknown if anyone is on board. The scene will be turned over to the Florida Highway Patrol and the National Transportation Safety Board has been notified.”
Miller’s plane is a fixed-wing, single-engine Waiex (Sonex), certified on January 4, 2012, according to the Federal Aviation Administration registry. Miller himself is listed as the manufacturer on the registry, with a manufacturing date of 2013, from a manufacturing kit by Sonex Aircraft LLC.
This morning’s previous story is below.
Missing Plane and Pilot: Palm Coast’s Raymond Miller Disappeared in Experimental Plane Friday
11:30 a.m. Saturday–The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating a missing pilot and plane, last seen leaving the Flagler County airport at about 9:30 a.m. Friday (October 3).
Airport Manager Roy Sieger reported that the pilot, Raymond A. Miller, 77, of Palm Coast, took off from the airport in a Northeasterly direction and never returned. Airport officials reported that pilots are not required to file a flight plan from point A to point B in the type of private plane piloted by Miller.
Miller’s family reported to law enforcement that they spoke to the missing pilot at 7 p.m. Thursday and at that time he told them that was taking the plane out on Friday to practice touch and go landings. The furthest Miller has flown the plane in the past is about 15 miles. He has no known health issues.
The plane is described as an unpainted aluminum Sonex – Waiex experimental type aircraft with “461MM” on the tail section. The plane has an estimated range of 200 miles when fully fueled.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, Flagler County Emergency Management, the County’s Fire Flight, Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Air-One, Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force Search and Rescue have all joined forces in the search for the missing plane and its pilot.
Anyone who may have seen the plane overhead on Friday is urged to call the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line at 386-313-4911.