Park County SAR searching the Absarokas for overdue plane

CODY – The Park County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team (SAR) has been activated and is currently searching for a small single-engine aircraft that has been reported overdue. On Saturday, May 10 at 11:30 a.m., the 911 Communications Center received a request from the Twin Falls, Idaho Police Department to check Yellowstone Regional Airport (YRA) for a 1963 Mooney M20C with tail number N6704U.

Twin Falls Police was contacted earlier by relatives of the pilot, 84 year old Robert L. Zimmerman of Huntsville, Alabama and his older brother, 86 year old Ward H. Zimmerman of Seattle, Washington. The brothers reportedly left YRA on Tuesday intending to fly over Yellowstone National Park en route to Twin Falls to visit friends. From there, they intended to fly from Twin Falls to the Seattle, Washington area. Although according to relatives of the brothers, it is not uncommon for them to deviate from their intended travel plans, it is however unusual for them to be out of contact for this length of time.

Officers from the Cody Police Department checked YRA but the aircraft was not located. Representatives from Choice Aviation confirmed that the Zimmermans had landed and refueled at their facility on Monday, May 5 and after staying overnight in Cody, departed the airport at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 6. The brothers have not been heard from since. Due to the size of the aircraft, they were not required to file a formal flight plan.

The United States the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) was able to partially track the flight path of Zimmerman’s aircraft using archived radar data to a point approximately 4.5 miles south of Highway 14-16-20 west at the Buffalo Bill Boy Scout Camp. The location is southeast of an area known as Paradise Valley on the eastern slope of Howell Mountain. AFRCC serves as the single agency responsible for coordinating on-land federal SAR activities in the United States.

A Park County Sheriff’s SAR team has been deployed into the Kitty Creek drainage of the North Fork in an attempt to locate the aircraft. Inclement weather has thus far grounded all aircraft, therefore preventing any aerial search efforts. To date there have been no confirmed sightings of the aircraft.

SAR has not been able to detect the plane’s Emergency Location Transmitter (ELT). The ELT is designed to activate automatically in the event of a forced or “hard” landing. However, SAR personnel caution that older model aircraft such as this sometimes have no ELT on board or their ELT’s are outdated and therefore difficult to track.

More information will follow as it become available.

–Provided by the Park County Sheriff’s Office