General Conference

In Venezuela, questions still remain 40 days after missionary plane's disappearance

Plane's locating transmitter was working, mechanic says

Gran Sabana, Bolivar, Venezuela | Libna Stevens/IAD/ANN

ore than a month after the disappearance of a medical missionary plane over the jungles of southeast Venezuela, searchers are still puzzled and continue to hunt for clues.

The Cessna 182N carrying Pilot Robert Norton and his wife, along with five other passengers, went missing on February 16. They were transporting patients for medical attention.

David Gates, founder of Adventist Medical Aviation, the organization which Norton and his wife were leading in Venezuela, recently spent a several days in Venezuela trying to sort out information gathered by the search party.

Gates confirmed with the plane's mechanic that the plane's emergency locator transmitter was in perfect operating order.

"Since there was no signal reported or picked by any airlines or searchers, we have to assume the possibility that the plane did not crash but disappeared for other reasons," he said.

There was also a long series of transmissions coming from Norton before the plane went missing that were unintelligible due to harsh weather conditions at the time.

"Bob rarely made long transmissions so there must have been some serious problem," Gates added.

Gates said that a crash into a cliff wall has basically been ruled out. "The governor's helicopter has done careful searches at the base of all possible cliffs, which fortunately have only low bush which make it easy to see the ground."

While the search is still on, Gates continues to be updated on the findings and remains optimistic that the plane will be found.

"We encourage everyone to keep praying for all persons involved as the search continues," he said.