Wreckage Of Jet Missing Since 1971 Found in Vermont Lake

Photo by Myles Bloomfield on Unsplash / Inlay by Garry Kozak via AP

The remains of a plane that went mysteriously missing more than 50 years ago have been discovered in Vermont

On a snowy night in 1971, a 10-seat corporate jet disappeared shortly after departing from the airport in South Burlington, Vermont. On board were two crew members and three employees of Cousins Properties, a Georgia-based development company working on a development project in Burlington.

A radio control tower last tracked the plane near Lake Champlain in Vermont before it went off the radar. Initial search efforts were unsuccessful, and the lake froze over four days later, making it impossible to search the water.

All five passengers were presumed dead, and their families were left without answers. 

Frozen Lake Champlain in Vermont via WPTZ-TV

A shocking new discovery was made after more than a dozen search attempts

Over the last 53 years, at least 17 other searches for the missing jet have been conducted. When the ice melted in the spring of 1971, some debris from the plane was found on Shelburne Point, which led the majority of the search efforts to be focused around the lake.

Underwater searcher Garry Kozak studied the sonar survey taken during an unsuccessful search in 2014 and found four anomalies on the lake floor. Last month, Kozak and team used a remotely operated vehicle to search the areas in question and found the wreckage of an aircraft with the same custom paint scheme as the missing Jet Commander.

The debris was found in 200 feet (60 meters) of water near Juniper Island. Sonar images were taken of the wreck, and the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating to verify that it is indeed the long-missing plane. Kozak told the Associated Press:

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

Example: the type of jet that went missing in the 1971 wreck


Family members of the victims respond to the discovery

Kristina Nikita Coffey, daughter of the plane’s pilot George Nikitas, along with her cousin Barbara Nikitas, have been spearheading the search and have contacted other victim’s families. Barbara reflected:

“To have this found now… it’s a peaceful feeling; at the same time, it’s a very sad feeling.”

Frank Wilder, whose father by the same name was a passenger on the plane, reflected:

“Spending 53 years not knowing if the plane was in the lake or maybe on a mountainside around there somewhere was distressing… I’m feeling relieved that I know where the plane is now but unfortunately it’s opening other questions.”

Charles Williams, son of Robert Ransom Williams III, who died in the crash, shared that connecting with the other families affected by this tragedy allowed them to put the pieces of the puzzle further together and gain a greater understanding and perspective of the circumstances surrounding the loss.

The families of the victims plan to hold a memorial now that the discovery of the plane’s location has given them some closure.

Watch the video below to see footage of the 53-year-old wreckage found in Lake Champlain.