Missing pilot search reaches tragic end

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 3, 2001

The body of a Brookhaven pilot missing for more than two weekswas recovered from the site of his crashed plane early Saturdaymorning in a remote area of Pearl River County, authoritiessaid.

Johnny Taylor, search coordinator for the Mississippi Civil AirPatrol, said the wreckage from Jeff Allen’s plane was spotted fromthe air at 4:15 p.m. Friday. The site was on the Wolf River abouteight miles southeast of the Poplarville airport and about a milefrom the Silver Run community, Taylor said.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency officials alerted thePearl River County Sheriff’s Department and a ground team wasdispatched to the site, Taylor said. The team reached the sitebetween 1 and 2 a.m.

“It took them a while to get in there,” said Lincoln CountySheriff Lynn Boyte.

From the circular radar hit patterns, Taylor said Allen may havespiraled into the wooded area. Taylor said all terrain vehicleswere needed to get to the crash site.

“To get in there and get the body out was a pretty involvedprocess,” Taylor said.

Allen’s body was turned over to the Pearl River County Coroner’sOffice.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board werescheduled to be at the site Saturday afternoon, Boyte said.

Allen, 46, of 2712 Nola Road, had been missing since around 2a.m. Nov. 16 when he last spoke with Dr. Larry Stewart, of McComb,while they were flying back from Ocean Springs following a bandperformance at a Biloxi casino. Stewart landed his plane in McCombbut was unable to contact Allen after touching down.

Since Allen was reported missing later in the day Nov. 16, airpatrol pilots had been using Air Force radar, leads from the publicand other information to search areas of south Mississippi andLouisiana near Bogalusa. Earlier radar information suggested Allenmay have turned at Poplarville and headed toward Louisiana.

On Friday, pilots were flying over an area around the McCombairport to make sure it was checked adequately. The search effortwas nearing an end until the new radar information on Poplarvilelocation came in.

“We were flying that last grid and were going to close themission,” Taylor said.

Regarding Friday’s tip about a possible crash site, Taylor saidtracking radar information is a “labor intensive effort.”

Taylor said Allen’s plane had a spotty transponder signal andtrackers had to compare radar hits with possible flight lines.Boyte said pilots were able to find the wreckage about 15 minutesof searching along Friday’s flight line.

While the search for a crash site was nearing an end last week,law enforcement authorities were stepping up their efforts underthe possibility that Allen had fled to avoid prosecution on drugcharges.

Allen was indicted in March on charges of unlawful manufactureof marijuana and had been out on a $50,000 bond since his arrest.An unlawful flight bulletin was issued Thursday.

Taylor said finding the wreckage brings closure to the case.

“We were glad to be able to find him, even though there was atragic end,” Taylor said.

Information on funeral arrangements for Allen wasunavailable.