This past weekend was a busy one for CAP units across the state, including the Bowie squadron, after a plane crash in Western Maryland. The single-engine, A36 Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft was headed for Cumberland Airport in West Virginia, Thursday evening, when it went down in the nearby Maryland mountains.
The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) activated the Maryland Wing and squadrons began deploying on Friday morning. Wing staff set up an Incident Command Post (ICP) at the Cumberland Airport. Shortly after, ground teams were dispatched to commence with the search. The crash was located early Saturday evening. CAP members and state police immediately secured the scene. The pilot and passenger did not survive.
The Bowie Squadron was asked to travel to the location on Saturday morning to help with crash site surveillance while federal officials conducted an investigation. Ground team leader 1st Lt Willy Santos and ground team members, 2d Lt Alvin Holley and 2d Lt Julie Holley were accompanied by Group III Commander Lt Col LaPre on the trip to Cumberland. The team left Bowie just after 0600 and arrived at the ICP at about 1000. Lt Col LaPre remained there to help wing staff.
The Bowie team was joined by members of the Bethesda Chevy Chase squadron. They arrived at the crash scene at about 1100. The BCC team left at 1400 having been involved with the search the evening before. The Bowie team remained on the scene until 0900 Sunday morning, braving temperatures in the low 20s throughout the night and early morning. The local Salvation Army made the stay more bearable by providing lunch, dinner and breakfast for the Bowie team and other responders including firefighters and state police. A team from Howard relieved the Bowie ground team members.
Lt Col LaPre praised Group III's response explaining that our group made up most of ground teams that responded to the emergency. He said Group I fielded one squadron and Group II offered two. Teams from Arundel and Annapolis squadrons are credited with the find. Arundel Squadron Commander and Ground Team Leader Capt Scott Harris said use of the Sniffer was essential to the find. He said the plane's very weak ELT signal did not even register on the L-PER.
LaPre also expressed a big thanks to Group III aircrews for their hard work to prepare the airplanes to fly following hours of sleet and freezing rain in our area. Bad weather in Cumberland prevented air crews from participating in the search. "We were ready to fly if the weather had broken," he said.
The crash remains under investigation. The NTSB is not expected to release its finding for a few months.