METALINE FALLS – The search for a missing Colville pilot ended Saturday, Nov. 16, when his body was found in Sullivan Lake southeast of town near the Washington-Idaho border on Saturday, Nov. 16.
Terry Coleman, 67, flew out of the Colville Municipal Airport around noon Monday, Nov. 11, intending to fly around the Colville area and return in about an hour. His family notified authorities when he did not return.
The search began that evening.
A Metaline Falls-area resident discovered Coleman’s body, according to the state Department of Transportation, which coordinated the search.
Pend Oreille County Sheriff Glenn Blakeslee said Coleman’s Cessna 182 Skylane plane has not been found.
“Our best guess is it’s in the lake,” he said.
An autopsy has been ordered for Coleman to determine cause of death, the sheriff said.
The sheriff’s office is working with the Federal Aviation Administration and Coleman’s insurance company to determine where the plane is and whether it can be salvaged.
Search crews focused on the area around Sullivan Lake and the town of Ione, based on the length of time Coleman was expected to fly, a ping of his cellphone recorded on a tower in nearby Metaline Falls and radar that showed a plane in that general area at the time he would have been flying, said the transportation department.
Radar could not identify whose plane it picked up, just that a plane or planes had been in the area.
Crews from several local agencies and search and rescue groups searched by air and on the ground. Low visibility, rain and snow prevented planes and helicopters from flying on several days of the search, but they were used whenever it was deemed safe to send them out.
Ground crews worked on foot and using binoculars to scan areas up to 6,000 feet elevation with steep, forested terrain, officials said.
“This is not the resolution anyone hoped for and our thoughts are with the Coleman family and loved ones, some of whom worked with searchers in the week-long effort” to find Coleman, said a DOT statement. “The local communities have been incredibly supportive both of the family and the search crews during the trying days of the search.”
Agency officials also acknowledged those who gave of their time or expertise. Agencies involved in the search included Pend Oreille, Stevens and Spokane counties’ sheriff’s offices and search and rescue groups; Civil Air Patrol; Washington Air Search and Rescue; U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Border Patrol; DOT personnel, and Colville Municipal Airport.
Most aircraft were staged at the Deer Park Airport, 50 miles south of Colville.
Coleman did not file a formal flight plan, nor was he required to do so, said the transportation department. His plane had an emergency locator beacon, but no signal was detected.
The search was suspended during nighttime hours.
The National Transportation Safety Board has been notified.