Aerial Search for Randy…

January 19th, 2016

by Cynthia

When Forrest told me a couple days ago that he’d been in touch with a guy from Durango who volunteered to fly his little plane to Santa Fe to help in the search, I thought that was really cool… Forrest explained he wasn’t going along to be the spotter but he had someone else lined up to go. When I expressed gratitude that Erin the rescue girl who found Leo was helping out again, he said no, not Erin, YOU!

For a moment I had a sick feeling…I sort of hate to fly but didn’t want to tell Forrest.

I didn’t sleep but two winks last night…I actually was excited that I was going to get to fly and be the spotter…I secretly prayed for the calmest day of wind ever to take place in New Mexico…I mean like minus knots…

Forrest met me at the little Santa Fe Municipal Airport and then about a half hour later than scheduled, we watched William make his descent and his wheels touch down. I thought, my God, it’s a toy…it is really small! (By the way, I had conversed with William the night before and when he mentioned he had built his plane from a kit, I did not get a warm fuzzy feeling! More praying took place the moment we hung up.)

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Forrest is telling William how to “drive”…

Trying not to look terrified...

Trying not to look terrified…

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buckle up…William is 6’4” tall…he barely fit. I think the canopy was almost touching his ball hat when it closed.

Our strategy was to fly as low as possible along each mesa edge of the river, with the opposite edge out my window so I could concentrate on looking for Randy along the river. Earlier I had seen the picture where Randy was wearing a light gray parka with blue trim and a royal blue backpack. The blue pack should stand out, we hoped. After sweeping both edges, we started moving east and then west out across the mesa top and sweeping the mesa tops. We’d start at Buckman Road and fly south to Cochit Lake where we’d turn and fly north again. Sometimes we’d fly really low around the high peaks in the area, in case Randy had wanted to get to high ground for a cell signal. William would tip the plane with my wing pointed down so I could get a great view of the terrain, and hopefully see his blue back pack. Sometimes, we’d concentrate on the smaller side canyons and arroyos, in case Randy tried to walk back via the high ground and needed a path from the river. Again, William tipped the plane sideways, alternating his wing with mine. We did this for 1 hr 15 mins.

I did not take many pictures but here are a few. This gives the folks who aren’t familiar with this particular area an idea of what the search teams are facing…

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William got me and his little plane safely back to the airport. I was so pleased I did not vomit in his beautiful little plane (or anywhere else)…his pride and joy. (It wins a lot of awards at plane shows…it was like riding in a Ferrari..all leather and shiny wood inside. I even had to take my boots off to be allowed inside it.)

The end of the day was both solemn and satisfying…Sacha said it best when she described the couple dozen searchers who dragged themselves into the restaurant after a day of searching… frazzled, tired, and sad that we did not find Randy. But, we all made our journey safely back from the river’s edge, no one had to be towed out of the mud (which was a miracle in itself), and we have newly found friends…

As always, Forrest made the rounds at the tables where nearly two dozen hungry searchers eventually found their way. He took time to thank and hug and shake hands with each individual and ask him/her about their day. He made everyone feel special…

The first group of searchers to arrive...I guess we were the hungriest. We added several more tables as the crew expanded...

The first group of searchers to arrive…I guess we were the hungriest. We added several more tables as the crew expanded…

What a day…what a fabulous group of folks!

Sincerely, Cynthia