The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office is asking people to stop flying drones in the area being searched for missing pilot Leroy Del Don. “Although we appreciate others’ efforts, if drones are in the area, all other aircraft involved in the search will have to be grounded,” the department posted on Facebook on Tuesday morning.
The search resumed Tuesday morning for Del Don, a Stanislaus County West Side farmer who flew out of a private airstrip near Grayson on Friday afternoon, intending to go directly to the Columbia Airport and then drive to Pinecrest. When he did not arrive in Pinecrest as planned, his wife became worried and had a friend check the Columbia hangar. The plane was not there.
Despite a massive search effort, no sign of the airplane – a twin-engine, propeller-driven 1967 Beechcraft Baron – or Del Don have been found, the Calaveras Sheriff’s Office reported Monday evening.
That day, around 35 searchers from agencies including the Contra Costa, Alameda, Tuolumne and Calaveras sheriff’s offices searched in an area east of Mountain Ranch. “Searchers reported slow progress due to terrain and heavy brush,” the Calaveras Sheriff’s Office reported on Facebook. The Calaveras County news site thepinetree.net reported Tuesday that personnel from several other agencies have joined the search, bringing the number of searchers to 58.
In addition to the ground searchers, two California National Guard helicopters used for transporting teams to their areas also conducted an aerial search. The Civil Air Patrol also conducted a search of the immediate and outlying area using imaging and direction finding equipment, the Calaveras Sheriff’s Office said.
Many searchers remained on site throughout the night, awaiting the renewed start Tuesday.
Anyone who heard or saw the plane – beige with brown and orange striping and the tail number N3717Q – or a similar plane during Friday afternoon is urged to contact the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office at 209-754-6500 and speak with dispatch.
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327