Squalls curtail search for pilot missing on Shore

October 12, 1991|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,Sun Staff Correspondent

EASTON -- The search for Rosa Maria Tames Gonzalez broke off in frustration yesterday as squalls moved across the Eastern Shore area where her Piper Cherokee was last heard from Oct. 4 during a training flight.

"One of the first rules of searching for someone by air is don't endanger yourself," explained Lt. Col. Marvin Storey, the Civil Air Patrol officer in charge of the search for the 30-year-old Annapolis woman.

At the same time, Coast Guard crews using a side scan sonar to relay images of the floor of Chesapeake Bay searched the waters off Cove Point, some 50 miles southwest of Easton, the airport where Ms. Gonzalez was headed. It was the second time the Coast Guard had searched the area.

"We got two calls last week from people who said they heard sounds like an airplane engine and then splashes," said Petty Officer Richard Martin of the Coast Guard search-and-rescue office in Baltimore.

Ms. Gonzalez, a native of Spain, began her flight at Lee Airport in Edgewater about 1 p.m. Oct. 4. She flew to Bay Bridge Airport on Kent Island, then to Summit airport north of Dover, Del. Her plans were to fly to Easton, then back to Lee.

She was last heard from at 2:18 p.m. that day, talking to air traffic controllers in Dover as she flew over an area seven miles north of Millington, Md., about where the Sassafrass River meets U.S. 301 near the Delaware line, Colonel Storey said.

Tom Parlett, a co-owner of Annapolis Flying Service, which operates Lee Airport, said Ms. Gonzalez had logged about 40 hours of flying time, completing the requirements to become a student pilot, and was working toward her private pilot's license.

The Civil Air Patrol, a civilian wing of the Air Force, waited nearly a week to publicly identify the missing pilot because it took that long for Ms. Gonzalez' friends to track down her family in Spain and notify them, explained Mitzi Parks, a CAP spokeswoman.

She said friends described Ms. Gonzalez, who used the name Maria Tames, as an "extremely sweet, soft-spoken person" who had attended "film schools" in the United States and Anne Arundel Community College.

A woman in the records office at the school said Ms. Gonzalez had been a student there "several years ago."

A bulletin posted at CAP headquarters here, where about 70 pilots have joined the search, describes Ms. Gonzalez as a thin woman with short, reddish brown hair.

Colonel Storey said pilots have carefully flown over a series of grids stretching from Millington south to the Virginia line -- about where Ms. Gonzalez would have run out of fuel -- along the western shore of the bay and east to the Delaware line.

"We've even had people walking along the shoreline, looking for debris," he said.

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