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No sign so far of missing Harrison County plane

By Robin Y. Richardson ryrichardson@nmarshallewsmessenger.com
Oct. 10, 2012 at 10 p.m.


Family members of four area men in an airplane missing since Tuesday held out hope late Wednesday that they would be found alive after a full day of searching failed to locate the aircraft in southeast Wyoming.

The plane was carrying Billy Gee, owner of Bayou Aviation and operator of a flight school at Harrison County Airport; Maverick Cayce, a pilot and employee at the flight school; Chuck Ford, owner of CW Ford Rentals in Marshall; and James Morgan.

"We're just hoping for them to find him alive," said Cayce's aunt, Missy Delong.

She was among a group of family members and friends gathered Wednesday at Bayou Aviation's hangar for moral support and to keep each other abreast of updates from loved ones, including Gee's wife and Cayce's mother, who were flown to Wyoming by private plane to join the search.

"Everything we're getting is second, third-hand (information) for the most part," said Steve Ford, Chuck Ford's brother.

Marcus Ford, also a brother, said, "We're hopeful they are found OK. We're hoping for the best and that they'll be rescued."

A ground and air search began Wednesday morning for the missing Piper PA-32, which departed Harrison County Airport on Tuesday morning en route to Casper, Wyo. The plane had been reported missing Tuesday night, but it was too dark to conduct a search.

Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration's Northwest Mountain Region, said the single-engine aircraft's last known position was about 60 miles southeast of Casper.

No flight plan had been filed for the trip; they are not required for private flights.

Lynn Lomax, a friend of Gee's, said the last time family and friends heard from Gee was when the plane stopped to refuel in Dodge City, Kan.

"Right now, we're just waiting to get some kind of news," she said.

Gee's business celebrated its first customer appreciation day at Harrison County Airport this past Saturday. That day, Gee discussed recent and upcoming flights, including the anticipated trip to Wyoming. He said he had flown to Dalton, Ga., last Friday and was planning to leave Tuesday for Wyoming with Ford, one of his customers, and others.

"He's got to drive to the town just west of there," Gee said of Ford. "Then we're going to come back probably Wednesday evening."

Steve and Marcus Ford said their brother was going to Wyoming on business. Alain Gee said his 65-year-old brother and Cayce were flying the two others north to scout a construction site.

Alain Gee said he and his brother, both Kilgore natives, grew up flying with their pilot father, also named Bill.

"We always had a plane," he said. "When I would get out of school, other kids would go ride bikes and I was able to get in a plane and ride with my dad."

Billy Gee became a commercial pilot, spending much of his career transporting cargo.

"He's delivered anything from military troops to Walt Disney film crews," Alain Gee said. "He is a person raised in a plane by my dad."

He said Cayce, 21, of Longview, is his brother's protege.

"My brother taught him a lot about airplanes and working on them," Alain Gee said. "My brother likes kids that want to learn to fly."

Major Jeanne Stone-Hunter, spokeswoman for the Wyoming Civil Air Patrol, said the Albany County Sheriff's Office was in charge of the search, providing two ground teams. She said her agency was dispatched to conduct an aerial search after being contacted by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center.

Stone-Hunter said a visual aerial search was attempted Tuesday night with one aircraft, but it was too dark.

"They did an electronic search, hoping to find an electronic location transmitter, but got nothing," she said.

The aerial search resumed about 8 a.m. Wednesday, with a primary focus on the Laramie Mountains between Casper and Cheyenne. In addition to aircraft, the search included two ground teams organized by a sheriff's office, she said. The search continued until nightfall, and was to resume this morning.

"We'll continue the search until the aircraft is found," Stone-Hunter said.

Abby Stevens, manager of the Harrison County Airport, said the plane departed before 11 a.m. Tuesday.

- Staff writers Naomi Prioleau and Glenn Evans contributed to this story.

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