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Officials ID body of missing pilot in northwest Minnesota

CLEARWATER COUNTY, Minn. -- The body of Andrew Lindberg was found this morning with his downed plane in a remote, wooded area 21 miles east of Mahnomen, Minn.

Deputies from Clearwater and Mahnomen counties reached the plane this morning, said Jeanine Brand,Clearwater County States Attorney who also serves as the county's public information officer.

Officials confirmed the body was that of Lindberg, she said.

Since Saturday morning, the state's Civil Air Patrol had mounted its largest air search in recent memory for Lindberg, 32, formerly of Hallock, Minn.

He was flying Friday night from Lakeville, Minn., to Hallock to go deer hunting with his father, Bill, and others. The last contact he made was a text message from his cell phone to his father, who was waiting at the Hallock airport, saying he was over Staples, Minn., about 6:30 p.m.

Officials were deciding late Tuesday night and early Wednesday the best way to get to the plane, which is lying in a remote, wooded area with no road access, Brand said.

A plane was sent up this morning to help steer ground crews to the plane site, which is where the counties of Clearwater, Mahnomen and Becker all converge.

A private pilot spotted the plane, noticing the tail fin sticking up out of a brushy, wooded site about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The private pilot who spotted the apparent wreckage was not part of the 18-aircraft Civil Air Patrol search involving 80 trained volunteers that flew over nine counties Tuesday, including Mahnomen. The CAP effort also involved five ground crews that check out leads from aircraft crews.

Lindberg was a new pilot flying a Piper Cherokee. The text message bounced off a cell tower between Staples and Wadena, on what would be a pretty straight line between Lakeville and Hallock, CAP officials said.

A site 21 miles east of Mahnomen would be in a pretty straight line between Staples and Hallock.

The weather in the area on Friday night was not good flying weather, CAP officials have said, with clouds and some rain reported.

Minnesota Civil Air Patrol spokesman Al Pabon, who is coordinating the patrol's search, would only say that a search will continue today. He said he had no official comment about any wreckage found.

Because of the remote, forested location of the apparent wreck, accessible only by a nearby snowmobile trail, and the onset of night, it was not possible to send out ground search parties Tuesday night. Deputies from Clearwater and Becker Counties are assisting in the search Wednesday.