The Washington State Department of Transportation has ended the active search for a missing pilot and aircraft near Queets after nearly two weeks of aerial and ground searches.
The plane, piloted by Rod Collen, went missing after departing Tacoma Narrows Airport on March 6, and was last seen on radar near the coast, according to a department news release.
“This is not the outcome searchers and the many partners had hoped for and our thoughts are with both the family and everyone who worked to try and locate the aircraft,” stated the news release. “The family has been kept informed of search activities and has been briefed about this decision.”
Collen took off at 5:35 p.m. on March 6, according to the news release. Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft’s automatic system for broadcasting its location malfunctioned or was turned off, before the final radar contact with the aircraft showed it rapidly descending toward ground level in the rugged region between Lake Quinault and Queets, according to the news release.
Aerial searchers flew thousands of miles looking for signs of the aircraft, a 2006 single-engine Cessna with the tail number N24289, said department spokesperson Tina Werner.
“An estimated 4,000 miles were flown for search effort to locate Mr. Collen,” Werner said in an email. “Thirty personnel from various agencies and organizations were involved.”
Law enforcement will maintain the case, Werner said, and WSDOT is ready to assist if new information comes to light.
“This still remains a missing person case with the Tacoma Police Department. If any new details about the aircraft’s location emerge in the future, WSDOT will again assist in trying to locate it,” Werner said.
There isn’t enough information to speculate on the reason for the aircraft’s disappearance, Werner said.
“Aircraft location, a thorough examination of the plane/site along with evidence affecting the flight patterns and descent are needed to determine a probable cause in this case,” Werner said. “This is the responsibility of the (National Transportation Safety Board) to investigate as directed by Congress.”
Multiple state, federal and tribal organizations assisted the search, including the Quinault Indian Nation, the Coast Guard, the state’s Department of Natural Resources, and many other civil and law enforcement agencies across the state.
Anyone who thinks they saw or heard the plane on March 6 or saw anything unusual is asked to contact the state’s emergency operations centers at 800-258-5990.