Bodies of Missing Parachutists Found

Village Creek, Big Thicket

Village Creek, Big Thicket National Forest

The Golon County Sheriff’s Office announced on Wednesday that the bodies of two parachutists who went missing following a jump over Pinebox have been recovered from Big Thicket National Forest. Ellie Castle and David Wang were part of the Texas Air Rangers performing aerial acrobatics for a June 19 skydive over the Pinebox Athletic Field. Castle and Wang were seen with the Rangers until they broke apart to open their parachutes, but were not with those who landed at the softball field. A search had been undertaken by the Sheriff’s Office and Golon County Search & Rescue but was called off on June 26, a week after the two went missing.

Sheriff Butch Anderson declined to comment on where the bodies were found but said that hikers had reported seeing brightly colored cloth in the treetops of a particular area, which prompted his office to investigate. Anderson refused to speculate on what may have caused the accident but did state that it appeared that neither skydiver had opened their parachute. An investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration is under way and Anderson said the FAA report would provide further details when released. He referred questions regarding the FAA investigators to his secretary, who has not returned repeated calls as of press time.

This reporter has learned that the pilot of the aircraft used by the Texas Air Rangers made radio contact with the Golon County Airport shortly after the team jumped. Pilot Gus Swisher reported violent air currents, instrument failure, and that he was in danger of colliding with “unusual” nearby aircraft. No other aircraft are known to have been in the area at the time of the jump.

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