April 14, 1997 in Nation/World

Air Force Ground Searchers At 3 Sites Turn Up No Trace Of Warplane, Pilot

Associated Press

The Air Force launched its first ground search for a missing pilot and his warplane on Sunday but found no signs of either after scouring three mountainous areas identified as possible crash sites.

“I’m sorry to report we didn’t find anything,” Lt. Gen. Frank Campbell said after a five-member team used metal detectors and mountaineering gear to search for Capt. Craig Button.

The three sites in the New York Mountain range were searched because U-2 radar photos identified two as possible crash sites and a backcountry hiker with a metal detector got a reading in the third.

Two were ruled out - one was just heavy snow, the other had metal that appeared to be old mining equipment, Campbell said.

Searchers may return to the third site today if the weather is good, he said. The crew couldn’t finish searching it because helicopters that lowered them into the area were running out of fuel and because of avalanche danger.

“We had a couple people sink up to their armpits,” said mountaineering expert Tim Reinholtz. “Our time constraints were really a problem.”

Earlier, the Air Force discounted two other possible crash sites based on aerial views. One turned out to be a steep rock face, the other is a known area for junk metal.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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