Pastor of missing pilot is ready to join search efforts

(KATV) Crews have been searching non-stop for the missing Arkansas Forestry Commission pilot, since communication was lost Friday afternoon. Monday was the first day of clear skies, making it possible to keep planes in the air to look for Jake Harrell.

People want to know why it is taking so long to find the plane. The blue line on the map [Pictured] was his flight path. He has taken the route many times. But pilots don't fly straight; they fly in the radius looking for forest fires. On top of that, it is some of the roughest terrain in the state.

Pastor Rod Loy says, "We are all experiencing this not just as a church family. We are experiencing this as family."

Jake Harrell is a lifelong member of First Assembly of God in North Little Rock. His wife is a pastor. His mom is the membership service director.

Pastor Loy has been in touch with crews at the command center in Mena on the hour. He has hundreds of people on standby, ready to join the search efforts, but they are only taking experts. "It is a large area with high ridges and steep drop offs. This is an area that was devastated in the ice storms so it is very difficult to get through."

By the day's end, the area of focus grew to some 756 square miles{}between Polk, Montgomery and Scott counties. It is slow going; crews are using chainsaw to make room for dozers.

Pastor Loy adds, "Jake has survival training. This is a guy who has been deployed twice, he has flown for years. He knows how to take care of himself. We trust and believe that he was able to put that plane down and he is waiting it out and waiting for searchers to find him."

There are more than 200 people from 10 agencies helping, including Jake's co-workers at the North Little Rock Police Department and the National Guard.

Jake has a 2 year old son. The family is asking for prayers.

The Arkansas Forestry Commission is keeping Twitter followers updated.






Arkansas Forestry Commission{}Press Release:

Mena, Ark. -{}The day has been dedicated in full force to bringing home missing AFC Pilot, Jake Harrell, in the Ouachita region just south of Oden. Searchers have worked along strategically designed routes with chainsaws and four-wheelers to access narrow passages throughout the area. By air, thirteen aircraft have combed grid patterns, rigorously searching for any sign of Jake and his plane.

No call has gone unanswered amid the many hopeful news tips provided by local residents, describing details about plane sightings on Friday afternoon. That information, paired with carefully studied points generated by the last signal obtained from Jake's cell phone and radio helped to narrow the search area. Jake's small plane takes up only 360 feet - a tiny dot in the massive forested space of National Forest Service land affected by remaining ice storm damage and limited accessibility.

Ground crews consisted of trained, equipped teams from the Arkansas Forestry Commission, U.S. Forest Service, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and the National Guard. Air crews included the National Guard, State Police, Civil Air Patrol, and AFC planes. Every resource available, and every effort possible - within a tight accountability system for ultimate safety of all involved - is being utilized.

"We are looking at an area that is 400,000 acres in size, for something very small in comparison. We are doing absolutely everything we can to cover this land by foot and by air. This team of so many all want the same thing - to get Jake home," said Montgomery County Sheriff, David White.

"This is a very complex search because it includes pieces of three different counties and so many different agencies. Every person here wants Jake home, right now. We are going to every effort to get this pilot back where he belongs," said Polk County Sheriff, Mike Godfrey.

The search continues into tonight and tomorrow. Incident Command is carefully monitoring tomorrow's weather situation with a contingency plan in place, should routes need to be re-considered around possible icy conditions. {}

The Incident Command structure in Mena continues as a Unified Command effort with the following partners involved: statewide Arkansas Forestry Commission crews, U.S. Forest Service, Polk and Montgomery Law Enforcement, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas National Guard, Arkansas State Police, Emergency Management crews from Polk and Montgomery County, local volunteer fire departments, the National Weather Service, and the North Little Rock Police Department.