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Arkansas Forestry Commission pilot’s body recovered

LITTLE ROCK — The body of an Arkansas Forestry Commission pilot was recovered Wednesday from the site of his crashed plane on a mountainside in Montgomery County, the commission said.

A National Guard helicopter lifted the body of Jake Harrell, 34, from the site a day after the wreckage was spotted from the air. The North Little Rock Police Department and the commission were escorting the body back home to North Little Rock on Wednesday afternoon, according to the commission.

Harrell may have crashed Jan. 31 after his single-engine plane clipped a mountain, based on visual evidence at the scene, but the cause of the accident will be investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, commission spokeswoman Adriane Barnes said.

A Civil Air Patrol plane located the crash site and a National Guard member who was lowered from a helicopter confirmed the presence of a body in the plane on Tuesday afternoon. Harrell was spotting wildfires on Jan. 31 when he stopped checking in with a dispatcher, prompting a lengthy search that was often hindered by winter weather.

The crash site is in rugged, steep terrain about three miles from the nearest main road, according to the Forestry Commission.

Harrell was a part-time pilot for the commission as well as a North Little Rock police officer and a member of Arkansas Air National Guard 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith. He leaves behind a wife, Jaime, and a young son.

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