Sydney Robillard, 21, left, from Lethbridge, Alta. and Alex Simons, 21, from Kamloops, B.C., are seen in this undated police handout photo. (RCMP Handout via CP)
The search for a small plane and two passengers that disappeared en route to Kamloops, B.C., could take weeks, says a military spokesman.
Lt.-Col. Bryn Elliott said 13 military planes and two Cormorant helicopters were in the air Sunday, conducting sweeps of a vast area between Cranbrook and Kamloops.
A Piper Warrior plane was reported missing Thursday afternoon after it took off from Cranbrook, in southeastern B.C.
Police said the aircraft was flying to Kamloops and two people are believed to have been on board – pilot Alex Simons, 21, of Kamloops and passenger Sidney Robillard, 24, of Lethbridge, Alta.
Searchers have very little information about what may have happened, Elliott said, noting they know the plane originally took off from Lethbridge and stopped in Cranbrook to refuel.
He said a thunderstorm rolled through the area shortly after the plane departed and weather may have been a factor in the disappearance.
“The pilot could have chosen to do any number of things,” Elliot said, adding that Simons may have flown into some valleys to try to find clearer weather.
“We try to put ourselves in the minds of the pilot with the information that we have.”
Searchers working out of Kelowna have taken the plane’s intended flight path and drawn an area around it, based on a variety of statistics, Elliott said.
Military aircraft are now systematically scouring that area at a variety of altitudes to try to find signs of the missing plane. Local search and rescue groups and the RCMP are assisting.
Searchers are also looking into potential sightings reported by members of the public, which Elliott said have been “very, very helpful.”
The hunt will continue indefinitely, he added.
“We’re going to keep searching until we’ve covered (the area) to our satisfaction,” Elliott said.
But low clouds and heavily wooded terrain are making the task difficult, and Elliott said the search could last weeks, depending on the weather.