Tara search takes flight - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Tara search takes flight

November 6, 2005

Albany- The search for Tara Grinstead continues on the ground and in the air. Two planes from the Civil Air Patrol have joined in the search and have spent the week sweeping Irwin County from a birds eye view.

Captains Andy Lawton, David Shoe, and First Lieutenant Phil Jourdan take turns. All three are certified pilots, but one will pilot the aircraft, the second sits up front and operates the communication radios and observes, and the third acts simply as an observer as they comb Irwin County looking for anything that may explain the disappearance of Tara Grinstead.

Requested by the Irwin County Sheriff's office the Civil Air Patrol is also looking for clues.

"We've actually sectioned it off in different grids and we've searched it grid, by grid, across the county," said Captain Andy Lawton, Civil Air Patrol.

"We'll basically fly in a half mile or one mile increments, up and back, up and back, up and back, so we cover a very large area at one time," said First Lt. Phil Jourdan, Civil Air Patrol.

They've actually searched all of Irwin County and now are looking at points of interest.

"The last couple of days we've actually been concentrating on a couple of particular areas as directed by the sheriff," said Lawton.

"When we want a specific target, we have a different search pattern that basically is an expanding square that keeps getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger," said Jourdan.

They're looking for anything that might lead police or her family to Tara.

"Just looking for any kind of signs, any type of activity, whether it would be new freshly turned ground, any kind of vehicle tracks, anything that would just stand out of the woods maybe," said Lawton.

The interesting part, though they're contracted through GEMA the eight hours they put in a day in this small Cessna 172 is all volunteer.

"Every hour that we put in as far as our contribution to the Civil Air Patrol and to the public is certainly volunteer, we're all volunteers," said Lawton.

There are two crews working in the search, the Albany crew and a second crew out of Macon. Both crews have been flying eight hours a day, with just a small break to refuel in Fitzgerald.

The Civil Air Patrol is the largest group of single engine aircraft in the United States with 542 aircraft. Crews plan to continue the air searches throughout the week or until they are asked to discontinue the search.

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