A search is being conducted in Vancouver, Washington, due to a plane crash in the Columbia River.
At roughly 4 p.m. Wednesday, authorities began receiving calls about a plane that had gone down just off Pier 39 in Astoria. According to witnesses, the plane crash occurred in the Columbia River.
The U.S. Coast Guard immediately began a search with the aid of Clatsop County, Oregon, authorities. Throughout Wednesday, however, the crews found nothing and were forced to restart at first light on Thursday.
According to what Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross told the Columbian, the U.S. Coast Guards are searching the plane crash site through use of “a helicopter, a 47-foot lifeboat and two maritime enforcement specialists.”
Unfortunately, the only signs of the plane have come from rising oil spots at the presumed crash site.
Experts have said that those oil spots suggest that the plane did not break up during the crash. It is likely sitting in the water, whole. Normally this would make for an easier search and a higher likelihood of recovering the bodies of passengers, but the Columbia River is proving to be a challenging search area.
Due to the size of the river, shifting currents and poor visibility beneath the surface, authorities are having a rough time trying to find the exact location of the plane.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Clatsop County authorities have stated their intent to put divers in the water at the crash site during slack tide.
“When it is slack you have a real small window of 30 minutes to an hour,” Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin told the Columbian.
There were two passengers confirmed to be on the plane.
John McKibbin, a well-known resident of Clark County in Washington, and a female family friend were both involved in the crash. The name of the woman was not disclosed to the media, though the reason for their flight was.
According to the Daily Astorian, McKibbin was flying his vintage World War II plane to honor the woman’s late husband, a military veteran. They were flying over the Columbia river with the intent of scattering her husband’s ashes.
@thecolumbian John had a passion for his work not only in the classroom, but in Vancouver, in Clark County and the State.
— Anne McEnerny-Ogle (@AnneOgle) March 24, 2016
McKibbin was a former commissioner for Clark County. He was also an amateur pilot. He was the one flying the plane at the time of the crash.
“A very proficient pilot, but it looks like we might have had an unfortunate circumstance,” Bergin told the Daily Astorian during an interview about the plane crash.
One of McKibbin’s friends, Stephen Kelley, spoke to KGW. He explained that he had seen McKibbin in the plane as he arrived at the air field. Kelley was shocked to hear that it was his friend’s plane that had been involved in the crash.
“Last time I saw John, he was in the plane, starting the engine, as I was arriving at Pearson Field somewhere between two and three o’clock in the afternoon on Wednesday. The plane took off fine, and all looked fine. But I had noticed he had not returned that evening, when I left the field around 6. I was a little – not concerned – but I figured he was going for an overnighter. Then I received notification later in the evening that it was his plane that had crashed in the water. In the river.”
McKibbin was very involved in politics, and the community, for the majority of his life. He was a teacher and a Democratic politician. He served in a legislative seat, in the house, and as commissioner. Currently, he is named president of a non-profit business advocacy group, Identity Clark County (ICC).
He was also married to his wife, Nancy, for over 40 years.
[ Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images ]