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Sheriff: Small plane missing, likely crashed in ocean north of Brookings

The Civil Air Patrol took part in a search for a missing aircraft after the plane failed to arrive in Grants Pass on a flight from Brookings Tuesday morning. (CAP photo)
The Civil Air Patrol took part in a search for a missing aircraft after the plane failed to arrive in Grants Pass on a flight from Brookings Tuesday morning. (CAP photo)
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GRANTS PASS, Ore. - The Coast Guard suspended its search for three people at 9:47 p.m. Tuesday after more than 12 hours of searching for survivors of a downed aircraft near Brookings.

The U.S. Coast Guard took over the search after a backpack and other items believed to belong to one of the people aboard the plane washed ashore near Lone Ranch Picnic Park, 4 miles north of the Brookings Airport on the Oregon Coast.

"It appeared the items had floated ashore indicating that the plane must have crashed into the ocean," Sheriff John Ward said in a press release.

The search started early Tuesday morning when Cheryl Belnap of Grants Pass Oregon called the FAA to report that her husband John Belnap, her 17-year-old son and another young male passenger had not arrived back in Grants Pass as expected, the sheriff said.

The plane left Brookings around 10:30 p.m. of 11 p.m. on July 4, the sheriff said. The last radar ping was within a few miles of the Brookings Airport, the sheriff said.

A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew from Air Station North Bend initially searched the land between Brookings and Grants Pass. No sign or signal from the 1964 Cessna 172F could be found, the Coast Guard said.

The Oregon Wing of the Civil Air Patrol provided two specially equipped Cessna C-182 search aircraft with three person crews plus base operations staff to assist.

At 11 a.m., two beachcombers contacted Brookings Police with a backpack and items they'd found on the shore.

"Curry County Sheriff's Search and Rescue members walked the coastline from Whaleshead State Park to Harris Beach State Park looking for any items or indications of a plane crash. SAR members did find several other items that are believed to have been from the plane," the sheriff said.

Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel and his SAR Coordinator, Deputy Cory Krauss, responded to Curry County to provide assistance as John Belnap is a Josephine County SAR member, Sheriff Ward said.

The Coast Guard currently has aircrews aboard a C-27J Spartan fixed-wing aircraft from Air Station Sacramento, California, and a Dolphin helicopter on scene and searching the area.

A boatcrew from Station Chetco River in Brookings is also searching.

"Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those who are involved as we conduct this search," said Kevin St. Pierre, operations unit controller, at Sector North Bend. "We have established a reasonable search area and every available asset is in position to support our search efforts."

Sheriff Ward echoed that sentiment.

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"The Curry County Sheriff's Office expresses our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and communities of Grants Pass and Josephine County for the pain and sorrow they are going through. Our prayers are with them."

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