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Veteran Game Warden Killed in Plane Crash

Veteran Game Warden Killed in Plane Crash

AP | Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

The Bangor Daily News via YellowBrix

March 26, 2011

CLEAR LAKE, Maine — A warden pilot with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife died Thursday night when his plane crashed on Clear Lake in a remote section of Piscataquis County, department officials said Friday.

Daryl Gordon, 60, of Eagle Lake was a 25-year veteran of the Maine Warden Service.

He and his plane were found after an intensive overnight search that included his colleagues from the warden service, the Maine Forest Service, Maine State Police, the Houlton Air Branch of Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol and Civil Air Patrol, according to DIF&W spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte.

A joint investigation is being conducted by the Maine Warden Service, the Maine State Police, the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board, she said.

The search for Gordon began about 8 p.m. Thursday. His wife, Rita, reported him missing after he did not return to their Eagle Lake home from his day on patrol, Col. Joel Wilkinson said Friday during a somber news conference at the department’s Bangor office.

The Red 185 Cessna he was flying alone was located about 8:50 a.m. Friday when a signal from an aircraft emergency locator transmitter was picked up by a Civil Air Patrol plane, Wilkinson said. A Maine Forest Service helicopter and a Civil Air Patrol plane found the pilot and his plane on the frozen lake.

Gordon’s untimely death stunned and saddened those who worked with him.

“I will tell you this has been the toughest day of my career with the warden service and the toughest day of a lot of game wardens’ careers. … I will ask all of you to bear with me and do my best to get through this. We’ve been up, most of our staff, all night and through the day conducting this search,” Wilkinson said as he opened the news conference, flanked by uniformed game wardens and state police troopers.

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Daryl Gordon

To the right of his podium stood a warden service flag with a black band running across it, topped with black ribbons bearing the names and years of service of the 14 wardens who died in the line of duty before Gordon. At the foot of the flagpole stood one of the warden service’s traditional red-and-black dress uniforms and a pair of black leather boots.

“This has been a difficult day for the warden service and one I never wanted to experience as chief of the Maine Warden Service,” Wilkinson said, his voice breaking with emotion.

“We lost a devoted pilot whose service to the state of Maine has been extraordinary,” he said. “So many people have had loved ones returned to them through the aerial search and rescue efforts of this gentleman. Without him, a lot of lives would not have been saved.”

According to Wilkinson, Gordon had been at the warden service’s seaplane base in Greenville earlier in the day. He said Gordon dropped off his plane for scheduled maintenance and then left in another warden service plane about 2 p.m.

In the hours before the crash, Gordon had been flying general patrol north of Moosehead Lake, providing information for law enforcement and wardens working on the ground and surveying the area for deer.

During that patrol, Gordon learned that Warden Andrew Smart was stuck with his snowmobile in deep slush on Eagle Lake, located in Township 8 Range 13 WELS in Piscataquis County, along the Allagash Waterway.

Gordon found Smart and landed on the lake to help him. The two flew to another location to retrieve a come-along that they then used to free the mired snowmobile. Afterward, Smart and Gordon parted ways, Wilkinson said.

Gordon last was seen by Smart about 4 p.m. as he flew up the lake in the direction of his home base.

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