Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Searchers in Batesville, Arkansas, spent the day looking for a missing Cessna on this date in 1975. The plane, carrying five North Dakota residents, left from Fargo the previous day. Scheduled to fly to the Bahamas, ground control lost contact with the plane that evening, and search crews were sent out on the morning of the 28th.
Jamestown attorney Allen Hofmann piloted the plane. His wife and three friends were also on board. The group planned to spend the New Year’s holiday in the Bahamas. Originally, they had planned to leave the 22nd, but foul weather had worried Hofmann, and he opted to wait it out. Finally, the 27th dawned clear, and the group left Fargo and flew the first leg of the journey to Springfield, Missouri. There, they refueled and, despite growing clouds, continued on their way. Shortly afterward, a sudden storm brought rain, snow, and fog over most of the southeast. Somewhere over Arkansas, ground crews lost contact with the small plane. Civil Air Patrol and Federal Aviation Administration officials believed that the plane may have landed in some remote area, since the plane’s emergency transmitter had not been set off. Officials told relatives that the transmitter is manufactured to begin emitting a signal when a plane crashes. Unfortunately, bad weather hampered the search effort for days. Only a few planes were able to fly in the rain and fog, and search crews lamented the terrible visibility. Relatives believed that rescuers would find the plane safely landed, given the fact that Hofmann was an experienced pilot who had made the trip before, and also that the transmitter had not been set off. For days, North Dakotans followed along with the search efforts, and family members awaited word of the plane’s recovery. Kenneth Herk’s two brothers flew to Batesville to help in the search. The New Year rang in, however, and still no word from Arkansas.
Finally, on the afternoon of New Year’s Day, searchers picked up a faint emergency signal near Harrison, Arkansas. Following the signal, they were able to find the plane, which had crashed into the side of a mountain. No one aboard had survived the impact of the crash. Although North Dakota family members were devastated to hear the news, and it proved a terrible start to 1976, it was a comfort to finally know the fate of their loved ones.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job
The Forum. Monday, December 29, 1975: p. 1.
The Forum. Tuesday, December 30, 1975: p. 1.
The Forum. Wednesday, December 31, 1975: p. 3.
The Forum. Wednesday, December 31, 1975: p. M3.
The Forum. Friday, January 2, 1976: p. 1.