Wreckage discovered in Michigan's Upper Peninsula believed to be plane missing since 1997

Mark and Janet Davies went missing after takeoff nearly 21 years ago

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®, Derick Hutchinson

ST. IGNACE, Mich. - The wreckage believed to be from a plane missing for nearly 21 years has been located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

RELATED: Howell and Brighton friends find closure after discovery of wreckage of plane missing since 1997

The single-engine piper Cherokee took off Sept. 14, 1997, and was headed to Howell, but it never arrived.

Now, officials believe Mark and Janet Davies crashed in the Hiawatha National Forest near St. Ignace. A U.S. Forestry Service officer was doing surveying in the area and discovered their plane.

Friends and family of the Davieses wondered what happened that Sunday afternoon the day before school opened in 1997. Janet Davies was an art teacher at Scranton Middle School. Her husband was an experienced private pilot, but they disappeared without a trace.

Forest rangers in the Hiawatha National Park found the plane Wednesday near the well-known Castle Rock.

The last person to see the couple alive was Jim Bailey, the airport manager at the Drummond Island Airport. He said they got in the plane and left just before 4 p.m.

"It was a nice evening or afternoon," Bailey said. "Yes, here it was foggy between here and and straights, apparently."

The plane was supposed to land at the Livingston County Airport, but investigators said instead of going south, it went west and disappeared from Canadian radar flying due west, which is where they found the plane.

"I assumed because it was seen over by close to the straits it went into the water because the fog over the straits is heavier than on land," Bailey said.

Ted Sarrach, of Howell, was the Davies' neighbor and family friend. He said he was stunned that the plane was found, recalling Mark Davies as a good auto mechanic and pilot.

"He just had a visual license," Sarrach said. "He may not have had an instrument license, and so he wanted to see I-75, and so he came over to St. Ignace and followed I-75 down."

He said he remembers what it was like in 1997 when the couple went missing.

"They sent teachers," Sarrach said. "They sent anyone that even knew her because they went up and looked through. I'm surprised the didn't find the wreckage then."

The plane went down in exceptionally dense forest.

One of the National Transportation Safety Board reports on the crash shows a fellow pilot said Mark Davies had an issue with vertigo. It's unclear if that contributed to the crash.

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