Missing Tacoma pilot and plane discovered near Queets

On Monday, April 10, Washington State Department of Transportation Air Search and Rescue crews successfully identified a missing 2006 Cessna T182 Turbo Skylane piloted by Rod Collen in the wooded forests near Queets. 

According to officials, the pilot was discovered deceased inside the aircraft, likely dying upon impact. 

Collen had been missing for 36 days. His family has been notified.

Collen departed from the Tacoma Narrows Airport at 5:35 p.m., Monday, March 6, and his plane fell off radar abruptly 45 minutes later on Quinault Indian Nation land. 

WSDOT and partners searched a 36-square-mile wooded area for two weeks, and suspended the search on March 20 after finding no trace of the pilot or aircraft. 

On Friday, April 7, crews returned to the area using a new hypothesis of what may have happened to the plane provided by a search and rescue partner in British Columbia. Search conditions had improved greatly thanks to the warmer weather, which had made earlier efforts of locating a white plane difficult in snow. 

Photo from WSDOT

On the morning of April 10, a combined team from WSDOT Air Search and Rescue, the Quinault Emergency Management and a K9 team from the King County Search and Rescue Office hiked into the location of interest and identified the aircraft of Collen. The wreckage site is in densely wooded terrain, difficult to spot and not easily accessible.

The NTSB is responsible for investigating the cause of plane crashes, which could take 12-18 months to complete and publish.

WSDOT Air Search and Rescue crews would like to thank several municipalities and partners for this search effort including: the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Tacoma Police Department, Olympic National Park, Quinault Tribal Nation, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Coast Guard, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, Civil Air Patrol National Forensics Radar Team and Washington Air Search and Rescue.

“We know this is a tragic outcome for the family and community, and our thoughts are with them during this time. WSDOT would like to thank everyone who has supported the family throughout this search.”

Details about the search, including photos of the mission and daily updates, were provided on the WSDOT blog.