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Officials find no signs of aircraft that reportedly had trouble

February 10, 2007|by DON AINES

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - A Pennsylvania State Police helicopter searched the area around Whitetail Resort Friday morning, but found no sign of an aircraft that two callers reported seeing in trouble Thursday afternoon.

Police, who also used four-wheel drive vehicles to canvass the area, began the search at daylight and it lasted about 90 minutes, Franklin County Emergency Management Coordinator Susan Dutko said. What the callers had reported seeing from the night before, she and police said, was a plane that experienced engine trouble, but landed safely at Hagerstown Airport, she said.

One call to 911 came from a man in the Smithsburg area who reported seeing a plane burst into flames, descend at a 45-degree angle and crash. Dutko said that sighting, however, was made from a distance of about 30 miles from the ski resort.

A second cell phone call to 911 came in from a person on Reeder Road in Montgomery Township, much closer to the resort. That person, who Dutko said was in the company of two or three other people who saw the same thing, reported seeing a plane trailing smoke.

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Police identified and interviewed the Smithsburg man and the other caller, Dutko said.

Maryland State Police Sgt. K. Scheer said Friday that police in that state were not conducting any kind of investigation into the incident.

The Maryland State Police helicopter that searched Thursday after the sightings were reported at about 5:45 p.m. was equipped with infrared sensors, but failed to detect any heat signature that might be associated with a downed aircraft, Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Randy Kane said Thursday.

"The state police also got a report of a plane leaving Hagerstown Airport had some engine trouble, coughed out some smoke, but returned safely to the airport," Dutko said. The Civil Air Patrol was contacted, but had no information of overdue planes, distress calls or anything else that would indicate a aircraft was missing.

"On the plus side," Dutko said there appears to have been no crash and "we didn't have to put a lot of responders at risk on a bitterly cold night."

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