TONASKET – Crews have been searching since Monday evening, July 23, for Tonasket’s Ed Jeffko, who took off from the Tonasket Airport on Monday morning and never arrived at his destination in Sequim.
Planes spent six hours doing an aerial search on Monday evening and were in the air most of Tuesday examining areas of the North Cascades where weather conditions could have made flying difficult, according to a WSDOT press release.
Washington State Department of Transportation Aviation Emergency Services is coordinating the search, according to the release. Searchers from WSDOT, the Civil Air Patrol and Washington Air Search and Rescue set up a search base at the Wenatchee Airport. Douglas County emergency officials are supporting aviation crews in Wenatchee. Officials have not located a flight plan or the plane’s emergency beacon.
Tonasket Mayor Patrick Plumb said that friends and neighbors have gathered to support his wife Claire.
“There have been flocks of people over there,” Plumb said. “Claire is obviously distraught, but they’ve been there for so many people. This is such a tight community, and people are there for them now.
“When Claire told me (Tuesday) all I could do is give her a hug. There wasn’t really much I could say.”
Plumb said that Ed Jeffko, a former Tonasket City Council member, was instrumental in getting the 4th Street bridge constructed over the Okanogan River and was a key member of Mayor Dave Caddy’s economic development team in the 90s.
The Jeffkos also ran the old Riverview Market – “their fried chicken was something to die for,” Plumb said – and own the Riverview Mobile Home and RV Park.
“They’ve employed lots of people who needed jobs,” Plumb said. “They didn’t hesitate to give me – a 22-year-old – a spot in their park. It seems like everyone and their dog have lived there at some point.
“They’re always good to anyone who might be downtrodden or in a need of a fresh start.”
Plumb said that Jeffko was one of his first appointments as mayor, to the civil service commission, and has been active in promoting the Tonasket Airport.
“He’s done a great job of helping people realize and emphasizing how critical the airport is for us,” Plumb said.
Plumb said that Jeffko had been an active pilot for “at least 20-30 years,” and that the plane he was in Monday was his “pride and joy.
“He did built it himself. He worked on it, it seemed like forever, and he’s been flying this plane for a couple of years. It wasn’t an ‘experimental’ plane; it was a kit. He’s an excellent engineer and has been talking to people nationwide on things to enhance, like the radio system.
“He’s one of the most meticulous people I’ve ever known.”
Anyone who may have seen Jeffko or his aircraft is asked to contact the search base at Missingaircraft@wsdot.wa.gov or (360) 410-7757.