WALLACE, W.Va. — Crews have narrowed the search for an airplane that went missing Tuesday afternoon to the Fallen Timber Road area of Wetzel County.

Harrison County Sheriff Robert Matheny said that location is based off of a cell phone ping.

“There has been a ping on a cell phone, probably at the onset of the plane leaving radar,” Matheny said. “We feel that’s a credible ping, so we started our efforts this morning with search groups on UTVs, on foot and by drone.”

However, Matheny said the aircraft — a single engine, four-passenger capacity Cirrus SR20 — could have drifted up to 100 miles from where it disappeared from radar near the Harrison/Wetzel county line.

“We have a lot of area to cover,” he said. “Right now we have no definite findings of any evidence, such as airplanes parts, trees being broke off or anything like that. So we’re really at ground zero with the ping on the cell phone.”

Not only do crews have a lot of terrain to cover, but the area is difficult to navigate.

“It’s very dense woods. The terrain is rough and steep,” Matheny said. “If it would be in a populated residential area, of course it wouldn’t be as difficult. There’s the old adage a needle in a haystack, and that’s what we’re up against.”

Nearly 48 hours since the plane’s disappearance, Matheny said he is still hopeful that it is a rescue search, rather than one for recovery.

“What we’ve learned is that plane is equipped with a parachute, so our hopes are that was able to be activated and there was a soft landing,” he said. “The possibility still exists that this may be a rescue mission.”

The couple aboard, Bill and Pat Searcy of Carterville, Illinois, was traveling from Delaware Coastal Airport in Georgetown, Delaware. Their destination was Fleming-Mason Airport in Flemingsburg, Kentucky.

“Our detectives have been working with local PD in Carterville,” Matheny said. “They’ve done some courtesy interviews with the neighbors and such, and we believe that the couple, along with their pet dog, were occupying the aircraft.”

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