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Search still on for lost plane

Petersburg pilot fails to return after 1-day trip to Admiralty

Posted: Monday, December 16, 2002

The Coast Guard and Civil Air Patrol continued to search today for a missing Cessna 180 floatplane piloted by Lawrence "Smokey" Howell of Petersburg.

Howell, 42, left from Petersburg on Friday morning for a solo hunting trip on Admiralty Island and didn't return, Coast Guard Officials said.

"He said he was going to return by sunset on Friday. When he didn't return, his friend reported it to the Coast Guard," said Marshalena Delaney, Coast Guard spokeswoman.

The searchers have concentrated on the southeast tip of Admiralty Island in Frederick Sound and Stephens Passage near Gambier and Pybus bays, where Howell was headed, according to a Coast Guard press release.

When Howell was reported missing, the Coast Guard put out an urgent marine information notice over the radio, and the skipper of a fishing boat responded, saying he had seen a cream-and-blue plane matching Howell's in the sky heading toward Gambier Bay.

The plane has an emergency locating transmitter and flares, but the Coast Guard had not picked up a signal by mid-morning today, Coast Guard officials said.

The National Weather Service reported unrestricted visibility, some rain and southeast winds of 20 mph for the area Friday. Temperatures over the weekend dipped into the 20s.

The Coast Guard's water search continued through Sunday night. The air search has been limited by daylight hours. Though a helicopter was launched from Sitka this morning, parts of the air search were delayed because of visibility.

"We haven't been able to launch anything (in Juneau) because of the fog," Sara Raymer, Coast Guard public information officer, said this morning before the fog lifted.

Dozens of area pilots have volunteered to help search.

"Howell's friends who are pilots are trying to search as well as doing some foot patrol in the area," Raymer said.

Members of Howell's family in Petersburg were in Washington when his plane was reported missing. They were on their way back to Petersburg today.

The Coast Guard asks that anyone who may have seen a cream-and-blue Cessna 180 float plane in the vicinity of Admiralty Island, Frederick Sound or Stephens Passage contact the Coast Guard Command Center at (800) 478-5555 or the nearest Coast Guard unit.

• Julia O'Malley can be reached at jomalley@juneauempire.com



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