2 Missing after Plane Goes Down in Columbia River

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk. Coast Guard photo
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk. Coast Guard photo

ASTORIA, Ore. -- A former county commissioner from Washington state is missing after his plane crashed while trying to help a woman scatter the ashes of her deceased husband.

U.S. Coast Guard officials said the search for the John McKibbin and a passenger was suspended Thursday afternoon. Crews searched for more than 12 hours on Wednesday and Thursday.

McKibbin was last seen Wednesday afternoon when he and family friend Irene Mustain took off in an antique plane from Pearson Field in Vancouver, Washington, The Columbian newspaper reported.

The U.S. Coast Guard soon got reports of a small plane crashing in the Columbia River near Astoria, Oregon. Deputies found oil in the water Thursday, Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin said.

Bergin confirmed the pilot was McKibbin, a former county commissioner in Clark County.

McKibbin and Mustain were heading to the mouth of the Columbia River to scatter the ashes of the woman's deceased husband, said George Welsh, a friend of McKibbin.

McKibbin was flying a North American AT-6 aircraft, said Welsh, himself a pilot. The two-seater aircraft, silver with red on its nose and tail, is frequently displayed at Pearson and has been flown to honor military veterans.

McKibbin, 69, served two terms as a state representative before he was elected to the county commission in 1978, The Columbian reported. He left office in 1990 to become a real estate developer, but he remained active in the community.

"One of the things that always struck me about John was he was very caring and had a very good sense of humor," said Jean Ryland, a neighbor of McKibbin's for more than 25 years.

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