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Airplane wreckage found near Mahnomen

Map of search area

MAHNOMEN, Minn. - A private pilot flying over Mahnomen County spotted what appeared to be the wreckage of a plane late Tuesday afternoon in a remote wooded area 21 miles east of the city of Mahnomen, according to Sheriff Doug Krier.

The pilot saw the tail fin of a plane sticking up out of a brushy, wooded site about 4:30 p.m. and landed in Mahnomen to tell authorities, Krier said. A deputy went up with the pilot to survey the scene and confirmed that it appeared to be a wrecked aircraft, though he could not tell what kind of aircraft.

The pilot who spotted the apparent wreckage was not part of the 18-aircraft Civil Air Patrol search involving 80 trained volunteers that flew over nine counties Tuesday, including Mahnomen. The CAP effort also involved five ground crews that check out leads from aircraft crews.

Since Saturday morning, the state's CAP had mounted its largest air search in recent memory for Andrew Lindberg, 32, formerly of Hallock, Minn.

He was flying Friday night from Lakeville, Minn., to Hallock to go deer hunting with his father, Bill, and others. The last contact he made was a text message from his cell phone to his father, who was waiting at the Hallock airport, saying he was over Staples, Minn., about 6:30 p.m.

He was a new pilot flying a Piper Cherokee. The text message bounced off a cell tower between Staples and Wadena, on what would be a straight line between Lakeville and Hallock, CAP officials said.

A site 21 miles east of Mahnomen would be in a straight line between Staples and Hallock.

The weather in the area on Friday night was not good flying weather, CAP officials have said, with clouds and some rain reported.

Minnesota Civil Air Patrol spokesman Al Pabon, who is coordinating the patrol's search, would only say that a search will continue today. He said he had no official comment about any wreckage found.

Because of the remote, forested location of the apparent wreck, accessible only by a nearby snowmobile trail, and the onset of night, Krier said it was not possible to send out ground search parties Tuesday night. Deputies from Clearwater and Becker counties will assist in the search today, he said.

The Rev. Bob Griggs, a Wadena pastor who is Lindberg's uncle and is acting as a spokesman for the family, said Tuesday night that they weren't making any comment until more was known about the reported crash site.

"We are all very grateful for the Civil Air Patrol and all the people who searched," Griggs said. "We will continue to hope and pray for Andrew, keep him in our prayers. We will gather tomorrow and learn what has happened."