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Search and rescue efforts underway in Hovland area for missing ultralight aircraft pilot
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Search and rescue efforts underway in Hovland area for missing ultralight aircraft pilot

Updated Aug. 21 at 1:18 p.m.

At approximately 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 18, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office was notified of a missing ultralight aircraft pilot who did not return after an evening flight in the Hovland area, east of Grand Marais. 

The missing pilot, Denny Pechacek, took to the air at approximately 6:30 p.m. near 30 Flute Reed Rd. He was expected to return around 7:15 p.m. Pechacek is a certified paraglider and has over two decades of paragliding and ultralight aircraft experience. 

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Cook County Search & Rescue, the Hovland Fire Department, and Minnesota State Patrol responded to the call and are assisting with the search and rescue efforts. Local fisherman assisted in search efforts on Lake Superior on Saturday, August 19. 

In addition to ground search efforts, the Minnesota State Patrol utilized a fixed-wing aircraft to begin an air search of the area. According to the authorities, the last sighting of the pilot and the ultralight aircraft with a blue parachute was in the area of Hammer Road in Hovland. 

As of 9:11 p.m. on Sunday, August 20, authorities do not have any updates to share and Pechacek has yet to be found. Search and rescue efforts will commence again the morning of August 21. Joining the search and rescue efforts are St. Louis County SAR, Minnesota State Patrol air support, Colvill Fire Department, Pechacek’s family, and a handful of civilian volunteers.

The Civil Air Patrol reached out to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and has agreed to offer air and ground search resources.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone who may have seen the aircraft to please call and give an approximate location and time to provide better details to the search teams.

As search and rescue efforts continue, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office is requesting volunteers to assist with the ground search for Pechacek. Interested volunteers must be physically able and prepared for foot travel in rugged, brushy terrain and able to commit for a full day. Field assignments may be up to 2 hours between rest periods. Volunteers must be prepared with proper clothing (including reflective clothing or vest) and footwear. Volunteers should be familiar with map and compass use, and preferably GPS.

Volunteers will report to the Hovland Fire Hall at 5049 East Highway 61 at 8 a.m. on Monday, August 21. Interested individuals must pre-register with Search Command by calling 218-370-9711.

Cook County Sheriff’s Office – 218-387-3030.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.