Long-Lost 1971 Vermont Jet Wreckage Suspected Found in Lake Champlain

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In the quiet afterglow of a frosty Vermont evening over a half century ago, a private plane carrying five souls on board vanished into the snowy shroud. Today, the mystery surrounding the missing jet that loomed large on the horizon of history seems to be nearing its end. Experts are expressing confidence that the wreckage of the long-lost jet has finally been found, nestled deep in the waters of Lake Champlain.

The ill-fated corporate jet had originally whisked away from Burlington airport with the intention of landing in Providence, Rhode Island, on that fateful night of January 27, 1971. The aircraft held five lives within its metallic confines – two crew members and three employees affiliated with Cousins Properties, a Georgia development company, en route to participate in a development project in Burlington.

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The initial wave of searches in the aftermath of the plane’s disappearance were fruitless. Assurance of the 10-seat Jet Commander’s fate escaped rescuers; the lake rumbled to a frosty halt just four days after the plane took flight towards destiny. The quest didn’t stop there. The lake bore witness to at least 17 more attempts to pry open its secret.

The persistent endeavors finally seem to have paid off when underwater searcher Garry Kozak, fortified with a team, plunged into the heart of the mystery last month. Using a remotely operated vehicle, they stumbled upon the wreckage of a jet with the same custom paint scheme, reminiscent of the lost jet. The location of the found wreck syncs with the last known coordinates of the lost plane, as per the records of the radio control tower, solidifying their claims. The images from the sonar scan of the submerged relic, lying in 200 feet of water near Juniper Island, only cemented their beliefs.

Kozak expressed his belief with a certainty that echoed in sincerity, “With all those pieces of evidence, we’re 99% absolutely sure.” The discovery, he acknowledged, finally provides some closure to the bereaved families. Yet, the revelation of the plane’s resting place also unearths buried questions and opens up seasoned wounds.

The sense of finality, though soothing, is not without pangs of poignant sorrow. Barbara Nikitas, the niece of pilot George Nikita, expressed the bitter-sweet sentiment: “To have this found now… it’s peaceful feeling, at the same time it’s a very sad feeling”. Victim Frank Wilder’s son, also named Frank Wilder, attested to the relief of knowing where the plane lies, albeit laced with the distress of unraveled questions that need attention.

The plane, once entombed in lake and mystery, has been discovered; the task now falls upon the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate and confirm the identity of the plane. However high the costs would be, the Board doesn’t perform salvage operations. Given this, Charles Williams, son of Robert Ransom Williams III, is grappling with whether any tangible remains may reside within the wreck and if it is worth disturbing.

Now, with the plane located, the relatives plan to hold a memorial service, bringing this long chapter of their lives to a close while honoring the memories of the lost souls.