After more than four days without finding a trace of anything, the Boone County Fire Protection District officially called off its search Thursday for a helicopter that reportedly crashed in a soybean field west of Columbia.
“With nobody missing and no aircrafts missing, we’re pretty solid at this point in saying the search is unfounded,” said Rob Brown, chief of staff for the Boone County fire department.
More than 100 people using airplanes, helicopters, firetrucks, all-terrain vehicles, horses and search dogs combed a 100-square-mile area after a distraught man called 911 on a cellular phone to report that a helicopter had crashed with six other people aboard, including a dead pilot.
The caller, who identifed himself as Larry Bishop, said he was flying from North Carolina to Kansas City.
The fire district suspended the ground search Tuesday morning, pending an analysis of flight patterns around 10:45 p.m. Saturday, the time of the reported crash. Those radar images did not reveal any evidence of a downed aircraft, and Brown expressed doubt that any wreckage would be found. However, he was not ready to call the incident a hoax.
The Boone County Sheriff’s Department will launch a criminal investigation if the person who made the 911 call is found, said Sheriff Ted Boehm. “Right now there is nothing left to go on,” Boehm said.