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March 25, 2011
Maine Warden Service Pilot Dies in Plane Crash
Augusta, Maine – Maine Warden Service Pilot Daryl Gordon, a 25-year veteran of this conservation law enforcement agency, has died in a plane crash.
Photo from the Maine Warden Service
Pilot Gordon was reported as missing at approximately 8 p.m. Thursday by his wife, Rita, when he did not return to their Eagle Lake home from his day of patrol. His plane was located at 8:50 a.m. today on Clear Lake in T10 R11 WELS (Piscataquis County) when a ping from an aircraft emergency locator transmitter was picked up. A Maine Forest Service helicopter and a Civil Air Patrol plane located Pilot Gordon.
“Routinely Maine game wardens put their lives on the line in dangerous conditions. People only hear about it when tragedies occur,” said MWS Col. Joel Wilkinson. “A tragedy now has hit our home and the Gordon home.”
Today’s recovering efforts have included numerous law enforcement agencies flying into the remote area to bring in emergency crews and equipment. A joint investigation is being conducted by the Maine Warden Service, the Maine State Police, the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.
Pilot Gordon will be brought to the Maine Medical Examiner’s Office in Augusta for an autopsy. Wardens will remain with their colleague until his funeral service is completed.
Pilot Gordon was one of three Maine Warden Service pilots, and was stationed at the Eagle Lake seaplane base in Aroostook County.
On Thursday night, after the call was received by Mrs. Gordon, game wardens immediately began trying to determine his whereabouts.
Earlier in the day Thursday, Pilot Gordon was at the Maine Warden Service seaplane based in Greenville, where he dropped off his plane for scheduled maintenance. He departed in another MWS plane at approximately 2 p.m.
Pilot Gordon was flying general patrol north of Moosehead Lake, which consists of providing support and information to wardens on the ground and surveying the area for deer. During the patrol he received information that Warden Andrew Smart was stuck with his snowmobile in deep slush on Eagle Lake (T8 R13 WELS in Piscataquis County) along the Allagash Waterway.
Pilot Gordon located Warden Smart and landed to provide necessary assistance. Both flew to another location where they retrieved a come-along in order to free the mired snowmobile. Upon freeing the snowmobile, Warden Smart and Pilot Gordon parted ways. Pilot Gordon was last seen by Warden Smart as he flew up the lake in the direction of his home base.
Warden Smart described the area as experiencing snow squalls as Gordon flew away.
Pilot Gordon was flying a red 1981 185 Cessna on skis, which allowed him to land on frozen surfaces. The plane was equipped with two locating devices. The first was a web-base satellite tracking device that is present on all State of Maine planes, which permits Public Safety Dispatchers to monitor their location for emergency calls. The second locating device was an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), which transmits a radio signal in the event of a crash.
The last information provided by the satellite tracking device confirmed Pilot Gordon was in the area of Eagle Lake, where he assisted Smart. There had been no signal detected from the ELT.
Two Maine Warden Service planes and a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – Houlton Air Branch plane responded to search. One of the Maine Warden Service planes and the CBP Cessna are equipped with a Forward Looking Infrared Device (FLIR). They flew until approximately 3 a.m. today. No evidence of Pilot Gordon’s whereabouts was located last night.
Search efforts resumed today at 7 a.m. A Maine Warden Service Incident Command Team lead the search from Ashland and Presque Isle.
Dozens of game wardens and eight aircraft also were deployed, including two Maine Warden Service aircraft, two Civil Air Patrol aircraft, a CBP helicopter, two Department of Conservation (DOC) helicopters, one DOC fixed wing aircraft, and a U.S. Border Patrol helicopter. Search efforts also were supported by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Maine Department of Public Safety. CBP and the Maine Forest Service brought investigators to the scene.
Pilot Gordon is survived by his wife, Rita, and two sons, Daryl Jr. and James III.
Pilot Gordon was a veteran of the Maine Warden Service, serving as a Maine Game Warden for 25 years and as a Warden Pilot for approximately 7 years. He has more than 12 years experience as a pilot.
He joined the Maine Warden Servicer in February 1986, and was first assigned to Calais. Throughout his career, he was assigned to Lincoln, Skowhegan and Bingham before being promoted to pilot in June 2004.
Pilot Gordon graduated from Hartland Academy in 1968. In 1969, he served 18 months of active duty in the United States Marine Corps, with 12 of those months in Vietnam where he was promoted to corporal and platoon commander and in charge of 12 Marines and 25 Vietnamese troops.
His Maine Warden Service accomplishments include an Exemplary Service Award in 2009. The northern division awards board, in its nomination report, said “Warden Pilot Gordon shows his dedication throughout the year, whether it is in helping with routine patrol or specific details. He is always thinking of the wardens on the ground and how he can help them. His ability to be a team player, his initiative, quick thinking and training, reflects upon the inherent quality, dedication and support of the Maine Warden Service and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
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