Teams plan next step in search for body of crashed pilot

Search teams are planning how to recover the body of a pilot of a Medford-based plane that crashed near Happy Camp, Calif., Saturday afternoon.

Parts of the Socata plane flown by 84-year old Alonzo "Lonie" Edward Mullin of Medford have been found in the forest south of Happy Camp, the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department reported. FAA reports indicate the pilot, believed to be Mullin, was the only person on board the aircraft.

Searchers on Sunday clambered on their hands and knees through dense brush that covers a steep slope, estimated to be about 70 percent. Although cloudy weather limited visibility, search crews found both wings with the landing wheels in a locked down position, the engine, the fuselage, parts of the control panel, and other smaller pieces of the airplane, articles of clothing, the pilot's cell phone, wallet and other personal items in a large debris field which stretches for well over a mile. No crash impact site has been found; however, it appears unlikely that the pilot would have been able to survive this catastrophic incident, search experts reported.

Two dogs trained to track people by scent were brought in from Josephine County Sunday but the extreme conditions prevented them from searching, the sheriff's department news release today said.

Searchers from across the region are coordinating efforts to come up with a plan for a recovery mission. Details about the next step likely will be released later today, officials said.

The pilot had taken off from Palm Springs, Calif., at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and reported he was having trouble descending through the clouds at about 1:30 p.m. The aircraft dropped off radar and lost radio contact over Happy Camp. The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office also received several calls at about that time from Happy Camp residents reporting a possible plane crash south of town.

— Anita Burke

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