published: 04 Oct 2014
by: Katie Kustura
Just before nightfall Saturday, boat crews searching for a missing plane were able to reach wreckage spotted earlier from the air in a marshy forest in north Flagler County near Pellicer Creek, officials said.
Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Dylan Bryan said boat crews made their way to the wreckage by about 6 p.m. He said it was not immediately clear if the wreckage found is the plane of Raymond A. Miller, 77, of Palm Coast, who had been reported missing late Friday night, or if anyone was on board.
The search was suspended Saturday night and will resume Sunday morning at 9 a.m.
Several agencies worked Saturday afternoon trying to locate Miller’s plane after he never returned to the Flagler County Airport, where he was last seen about 9:30 a.m. Friday, Flagler County sheriff’s spokeswoman Deputy Paula Priester said.
The Sheriff’s Office received information about the wreckage about 1:20 p.m., Priester said, about three hours after first announcing it was searching for a missing pilot and his plane.
Sheriff’s Cmdr. Bob Weber said Miller took off from the Flagler County Airport on Friday morning heading northeast.
Miller was in a private experimental airplane and wasn’t required to file a flight plan, according to airport officials.
The plane is an “unpainted aluminum Sonex-Waiex experimental type aircraft” with a tail number of 461MM, Weber said.
Miller’s family told authorities they spoke to Miller around 7 p.m. Thursday, when he told them he was flying out Friday to practice touch-and-go landings. Priester said the Sheriff’s Office was notified about 11:30 p.m. Friday that Miller, who has no known health issues, had never returned.
Several other agencies joined the Sheriff’s Office and Florida Highway Patrol in the search: Flagler emergency management, the Fire Flight helicopter, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy and a U.S. Air Force search-and-rescue team.
In a media briefing about 4:30 p.m. at the corner of U.S. 1 and County Road 204 near the St. Johns County line, where the Sheriff’s Mobile Command Center was set up, Flagler Undersheriff Rick Staly said the wreckage had been spotted about 1:30 p.m. Saturday in “a very remote area that’s very difficult to get to” near Pellicer Creek.
He said an FWC airboat, an East Flagler Mosquito Control airboat and a deputy’s personal jonboat were used in the search.
Neighbors of Miller, who lives on Farraday Lane, said the 77-year-old widower had moved to the area about six months ago after living on his boat with his dog in Fort Pierce for one year.
Phil Rotunno said Miller relocated to Palm Coast to be closer to family.
“He’s a really easy-going guy,” Rotunno said Saturday evening. “Really nice guy.”
“In the short time I’ve known him, I’ve learned he was an adventurist,” Scott Mikulski said.
Mikulski said Miller told him about previous excursions where he rode a motorcycle all over the country.
“I can appreciate the way he thought,” Mikulski said Saturday evening. “He was an adventurous person.”