Plane that disappeared in 1971 believed to have been found in Lake Champlain

under water, lake

Decades after a private plane disappeared over Vermont on a snowy night, authorities say they believe they have found the wreckage in Lake Champlain, according to The Associated Press.

The corporate jet carrying two crew members and three employees of a development company based in Georgia – Cousins Properties – disappeared from radar on Jan. 27, 1971, as it headed to Providence, Rhode Island from Burlington, Vermont.

According to the AP, Initial searches for the 10-seat Jet Commander turned up no wreckage and the lake froze over four days after the plane was lost. There were at least 17 other searches undertaken, until underwater searcher Garry Kozak and a team using a remotely operated vehicle last month found wreckage of a jet close to where the plane was believed to have gone down.

The plane Kozak found had the same custom paint scheme as the missing plane and was found in 200 feet of water near Juniper Island.

“With all those pieces of evidence, we’re 99% absolutely sure,” Kozak said Monday.

“To have this found now ... it’s peaceful feeling, at the same time it’s a very sad feeling,” Barbara Nikitas, niece of pilot George Nikita, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. “We know what happened. We’ve seen a couple of photos. We’re struggling I think with that now.”

Through the years, Kozak remained dedicated to finding the plane. After a 2014 search was unsuccessful, Kozak became intrigued and searched a sonar survey of the lake of the lake, according to the AP.

He found four anomalies on the lake floor, he said, that he wondered may be part of the plane. He then enlisted a friend to help and was able to get a remote operated vehicle to send down to look for the aircraft.

Last month he found what appears to be the crashed plane.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating to verify if it is the plane.

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