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Snow hampers search for missing F-16

January 9, 1997

TWO HARBORS, Minn. (AP) _ The enemy was snow as aircraft searched today for a Minnesota Air National Guard fighter jet that disappeared from radar during training exercises.

Helicopters from the Minnesota guard, the State Patrol and Coast Guard and an airplane from the Wisconsin Air National Guard were looking for the F-16 that apparently went down Tuesday night in a remote area of northeastern Minnesota.

The search area stretched out over dense forest and peat bogs near Greenwood Lake, some 50 miles south of the Canadian border. The snow was waist-deep in the woods and light snow was falling today, threatening to cover up any trace of the aircraft.

Col. Ken Stromquist, commander of the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, said it was possible that the airplane was buried in a swamp.

``We will not give up,″ Stromquist said.

Searchers were hoping to spot the jet from the air, and the Guard hoped missing pilot Maj. Peter M. Woodbury, 38, of Duluth, was still alive. They said he was trained in winter survival, was wearing warm clothing and carried survival gear.

If wreckage is found, rescue crews would be sent in on the ground, a daunting task.

``I don’t think it’s even snowshoe-able,″ Lake County Sheriff Andy Haugan said of the deep snow. ``Even on snowshoes, you’d sink to your knees in there.″

Woodbury, married with three children, is a pilot for Northwest Airlines.

The jet was one of four simulating an air-combat interception. There were no radio transmissions or distress signals from the pilot before his disappearance.

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