South African pilots Bryan and Robert Simms have been missing since 28 October, when the light aircraft they were ferrying had to make an emergency landing in Mozambique and disappeared.
Their family have filed a missing persons report and believe that the missing pilots made an emergency landing in or near the Gorongosa National Park. A reward has also been offered to locals who can identify the location of the plane.
Since the official government search was suspended on 3 November, volunteers have taken up the cause and donated hundreds of hours, equipment and financial support toward the Search and Rescue effort.
To date, volunteers have done more than 20 sorties by air in addition to daily exploration in and around the Gorongosa National Park by the ground team. The teams have followed up on a handful of legitimate leads based on satellite imagery, communication triangulation and villager information.
The search is being carried out by ground and by air, with teams based in Beira, Chimoio and the Gorongosa town canvassing search areas daily.
The SAR volunteer aircraft have clearance permits which allow them to fly in Mozambique to conduct the search. These permits expire today and the aircraft will be returning to South Africa. The SAR volunteers plan to use the return of the aircraft as an opportunity to consolidate results of all activity to date and determine how to continue with the next phase. In the meantime the ground search will continue.
Richard Maier has been leading air operations, having donated his King Air B200 and running sorties himself with a team of professional spotters and pilots daily. Eric and John Verkerk, brothers of Mrs. Lillian Simms, have been heading up the ground teams around Gorongosa.
Bryan’s brother and son, Mike and Stephen, are leading operations for the search from Midrand in South Africa, with the involvement of a number of key volunteers and experts. The aviation community has also been actively involved in mapping and analysing flight path scenarios and data. This information has enabled the SAR operations team to prioritise the search area, eliminating some areas which have been searched thoroughly and identifying new areas of interest.
A facebook page (www.facebook.com/bryanrobsimms) has been created and a website will launch shortly (www.operationsimms.co.za) to keep the public apprised of the progress of the search. Nearly 1,300 people are following the SAR efforts through social media.
There is also a hotline +27788009929 and email address firstname.lastname@example.org which anyone can contact to offer assistance and leads.
The Simms family would like to extend special thanks to Richard Maier, Angus Money, and the DECA Group who have donated aircraft to the search; pilots Euan Kay, De Clercq van Heerden, and Martin Venn; Eric Verkerk, John Verkerk, Werner Coetzee, Des O’Brien and Sakkie for their efforts on the ground; Sakkie van Zyl and Piet van Zyl and the Gorongosa National Park management; the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) for providing satellite images and leads; and all of the SAR volunteers especially Dane and Donna du Plooy, Rob Thomas, the Van Oldenmarks, and the Stevens family and team.
Note: issued on behalf of the Simms family. Sarah Brooker, Science in Public’s director, is Bryan’s niece and Robbie’s cousin.