UPDATED - Hikers find site of old air crash near park outside Milton-Freewater

Three people hiking near Harris Park came across the wreckage of a small plane Saturday.

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UPDATE:

MILTON-FREEWATER — Remains of a crashed plane found near the South Fork of the Walla Walla River dates from decades ago, a Umatilla County official said Monday afternoon.

The crash site was found by hikers Saturday below a ridgetop west of Harris Park. Jan Good of Umatilla County Search and Rescue said the wreckage dates from an airplane crash that occurred in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

The twin-engine aircraft was piloted by a Milton-Freewater man who had his wife with him, Good said. Both died in the accident. Further details of the accident weren’t available Monday.

Athena resident Merrel Phillips, who was with his son, Chris Phillips, and foster son, Nathan Spencer, found the wreckage Saturday afternoon while hunting for elk antlers in the area.

EARLIER STORY:

MILTON-FREEWATER -- Hikers looking for elk antlers made an unexpected discovery Saturday of an old airplane crash site.

Athena resident Merrel Phillips said he and two others came upon the wreckage of a small airplane below a ridgetop west of Harris Park on the South Fork of the Walla Walla River. Umatilla County Undersheriff Terry Rowan said today "what we're thinking right now is this is an old site that's been up there for several years."

Phillips said he had been hiking in the area with his son, Chris Phillips, and foster son Nathan Spencer. They had been on the ridge that afternoon and decided to drop back down when they saw a storm approaching. As they made their way down, they saw pieces of aluminum lying on top of brush.

The wreckage they found was badly crumpled, Phillips said, and it appears the airplane struck the rock face of the ridge when it crashed. Although they looked, Phillips said they were unable to find the tail of the aircraft to report an identification number.

Phillips said he initially assumed the crash site was an old one that was already known, but after thinking about it he decided to notify the Sheriff's Office on Sunday to make certain. Rowan said sheriff's officers will talk with Phillips and revisit the site to make sure it's one that has already been reported.

Rowan said that after speaking with other officers at the Sheriff's Office, it's believed the crash Phillips discovered is one that occurred about eight to 10 years ago.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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