Rescue officials suspended the search for a Wasilla-bound plane that went missing in the area of Rainy Pass more than two weeks ago, the Alaska Air National Guard said in a statement Friday.
After nearly 200 cumulative hours of searching, rescuers have found no sign of the missing red-and-white Cessna 172 or its pilot, 61-year-old Timothy D. Twohy of Wasilla, who was reported overdue late on March 5.
Twohy had flown to Submarine Lake that day to help friends pack out a bison they hunted, and went missing during his return trip to Wasilla, according to his son.
He took off from Farewell Airport after 5 p.m. for what is normally a 60- to 90-minute flight, but still hadn’t arrived by 11 p.m., search officials said.
Rough terrain in the Rainy Pass area, including altitudes reaching as high as 9,000 feet above sea level, made it impossible for rescuers to pinpoint reliable radar information, Lt. Col. Keenan Zerkel, director of the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, said in a press briefing on Saturday.
“Until we get additional information or some clue as to survivorship, we are suspending our search effort,” Zerkel said.
No signal was detected from the plane’s electronic locator transmitter, and the search effort has been hampered from the beginning by poor weather conditions, from low cloud cover and turbulence to near-constant precipitation, search officials said.
“None of these decisions were made easily," Zerkel said. “We know it’s a humanitarian decision, but once we are certain that additional effort will not result in a more positive outcome, we make the tough decision to suspend the active search.”
A “large group” of Good Samaritan pilots are likely to continue the search independently, Zerkel said, and the government may resume the official search if new information or clues develop.
Charles Twohy, Timothy Twohy’s son, said his father was a “very careful and very meticulous” pilot who knew both his plane and the landscape well. He had been flying recreationally for at least two decades when he went missing.
There is no indication that Twohy flew to a destination other than Wasilla or didn’t want to be found, according to Zerkel.
Check back for updates on this developing story.