REDMOND, Ore. - A Civil Air Patrol search crew flying out of Central Oregon found the wreckage of a small plane that apparently went off course and crashed into a ridge near La Grande last weekend, killing the pilot, officials said.
The plane disappeared from radar on Sunday and was reported missing Tuesday. It was found near Limber Jim Ridge southwest of La Grande, Union County Sheriff's Captain Craig Ward told The Observer newspaper of La Grande.
Ward said the plane was on a flight from Kennewick, Washington to Ontario, Oregon when it apparently went off course and began a rapid descent from about 6,600 feet altitude.
The newspaper said Friday the pilot had not yet been identified and that the FAA will investigate what caused the crash.
The High Desert Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol was alerted early Wednesday morning that its services were needed in a search for the missing aircraft. A CAP plane was in the air out of Redmond by 9:15 a.m., piloted by First Lt. Ron Lee, accompanied by Maj. Mike Wissing as mission observer and Cadet Capt. Samuel Conklin as mission scanner.
A low cloud ceiling grounded the plane for a time, but it was able to resume the search about 2 p.m. and the crew spotted the debris of the plane about 20 minutes later. Ground search crews were on the scene within another 15-20 minutes.
An Oregon Air National Guard Chinook helicopter also took part in the search, said CAP squadron Public Affairs Officer First Lt. Faye Phillips.
Lee was among pilots who took part in a mountain flying clinic last weekend in Central Oregon that drew CAP pilots from across the state, Phillips noted.