Three Civil Air Patrol Officers Killed During Mission

Cessna 182R
Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182R

By Anonymous | AuxBeacon News Contributor

[Editor’s Note: We received an anonymous tip regarding this crash. Thank you for your contribution. This CAP plane crash in Wyoming was attributed to pilot error.]

Three members of Wyoming’s Civil Air Patrol, out searching for a missing teen, were killed when their plane crashed in the Bighorn National Forest, authorities said Tuesday.

The plane went down Monday evening, August 20, 2007, as the crew searched for a teen who disappeared the day before while fishing. On Tuesday, rescuers reached the remote crash site and recovered the bodies of the crew members, said Jeanne Stone-Hunter, spokeswoman for Civil Air Patrol’s Wyoming Wing.

The pilot of the Cessna 182R was identified Tuesday night as Lt Col James Henderson, 59, of Cowley. The two passengers were SM James Meyer, 53, of Sheridan; and Capt Patricia Larson, 52, of Sheridan, Stone-Hunter said.

Henderson last made radio contact with another pilot in the area at about 4 p.m. Monday, she said. The missing teen, Keith Bellack, 16, of Gillette, was found alive about an hour later, although his condition was not immediately known.

The Civil Air Patrol plane left the Sheridan airport about 1:30 p.m. Monday for a two-hour search mission. When it failed to return, the Civil Air Patrol alerted the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and a search for the plane began, Stone-Hunter said.

About 7:30 p.m. Monday, a U.S. Forest Service helicopter responding to reports of a wildfire spotted the wreckage.

“The aircraft was destroyed by fire,” said Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Probable Cause
Says Turbulence, Low Visibility Likely Factors.

The National Transportation Safety Board released its Probable Cause report this week on the downing of a Wyoming Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182R stated strong winds and low visibility were factors in the August 20, 2007 crash. A pilot’s failure to control his single-engine plane amid high winds and turbulence during a search for a missing hiker led to the Aug. 20 crash that killed three members of the Wyoming Civil Air Patrol in the Big Horn Mountains, the National Transportation Safety Board has concluded. Witnesses told investigators they saw the CAP aircraft flying at an estimated 400 to 600 feet off the ground, nearly 2,000 feet lower than what was called for in the prevailing conditions.