published Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Searchers reach plane crash site in North Georgia

By JEFF MARTIN

Associated Press

ATLANTA — Crews searching for a missing airplane with four people on board said late Wednesday they were able to lower a rescuer who rappelled from a helicopter to reach a remote crash site high atop a Georgia mountain.

The site is on Rich Mountain, in an extremely rugged and remote part of Gilmer County, Maj. Paige Joyner of the Georgia Wing of the Civil Air Patrol told The Associated Press.

Several tips from local residents, some of whom reported seeing or hearing what sounded like a plane, were pieced together by searchers who zeroed in on the mountain. The crash site was then spotted by a Georgia State Patrol helicopter Wednesday afternoon, Joyner said.

“They’re 99 percent sure from the air that this is the airplane,” she said.

There are no roads to reach the area, Joyner said, so the searchers rappeled a rescuer from a helicopter hovering overhead.

There was no information late Wednesday on any possible survivors, but Joyner said authorities hoped to have more information during the overnight hours.

The plane, a Beechcraft Bonanza, was reported missing Monday, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

Three occupants are from Gilmer County, and the pilot is from Ohio, Gilmer County Fire Chief Tony Pritchett said

The group was on a sight-seeing flight after someone won the trip as a door prize at Gilmer High School’s 50th class reunion held recently.

About 200 people have participated in the search, authorities said.

“There was a tremendous outpouring of support from the local folks,” Joyner said.

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