53 Years Ago, A Plane Went Missing With 5 People On Board. Experts Think They’ve Found It

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Ilan Hulkower Contributor
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An underwater search team says they think they found a plane that went missing with five people on board since 1971 in Lake Champlain, CBS News reported Tuesday.

The Jet Commander aircraft took off from Burlington airport for Providence, Rhode Island carrying members of a local development project, according to the outlet.

An underwater search team led by Garry Kozak used a remotely operated vehicle to find the wreckage of a plane with a paint scheme matching that of the long-lost jet close to the last known location of the plane prior to its disappearance, the outlet reported. The team reportedly took sonar images of the wreckage located 200 feet near Vermont’s Juniper Island in the lake.

“With all those pieces of evidence, we’re 99% absolutely sure,” Garry Kozak, the underwater search team lead, told the outlet. (RELATED: REPORT: Vice President Of African Nation Dies In Plane Crash)

There were initial attempts followed by 17 subsequent expeditions prior to this apparent discovery, according to CBS News.

“A jet, it looks like a pile of rocks, literally. So, to most people looking at sonar data, they can overlook it because they’ll go, ‘Oh, that looks like geology,” Kozak told WCAX 3 on why the previous searches may have missed the apparent wreckage of the plane.

“To have this found now … it’s peaceful feeling, at the same time it’s a very sad feeling,” Barbara Nikitas, a niece of the pilot on the doomed flight, told The Associated Press (AP). “We know what happened. We’ve seen a couple of photos. We’re struggling I think with that now.”

“Spending 53 years not knowing if the plane was in the lake or maybe on a mountainside around there somewhere was distressing,” Frank Wilder, a son of a passenger on the flight, told the outlet. Frank said he felt a sense of relief that he at least knows where the plane is, the AP reported.

The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation to verify whether the wreckage Kozak’s team found is the missing plane, according to  Charles Williams, the son of a passenger on the plane, CBS News reported.

Kozak’s career in underwater search and surveys began in 1972, according to his website. His biography claims he “has trained more people, Navies, and commercial organizations on the use of” side scan sonar “than any other person in the world.”