Bill Fitzpatrick was a Park Ranger and airplane pilot for 25 years transporting people by air, boat and or by motor vehicle from remote locations throughout the US and in two parks in Africa. He responded to emergency law enforcement, search and rescue, medical and fire incidents. He also worked to save wild lands throughout the world by working in a variety of National and International Parks.
A husband to Paula, and father of children, Mary, Matthew and Cody, Bill disappeared on a flight in West Africa on June 22, 2013. This week his remains were found by villagers in Cameroon at a crash site in mountainous terrain where his Cesssna 172 went down. Bill was working as an anti-poaching pilot for one of the largest national wildlife preserves in Africa.
Reports are that there was no foul play involving his death. Today his family is just grateful to have answers to his disappearance.
His family is also thankful to those who helped in the search for Bill.
“Bill’s plane was lost nearly 10 months ago, and this brings some degree of closure for our family,” the family said in an email to the AP.
The statement said Fitzpatrick’s last flight was not a “singular trip” but part of a “lifelong commitment” to conservation and philanthropy in Africa and the United States. Fitzpatrick was involved in internationally supported anti-poaching efforts through African Park. A U.S. plane had recently arrived in Africa and Fitzpatrick was flying it to Congo for use in efforts to stop elephant poaching.
The last contact between Fitzpatrick, 59, and aviation authorities was on the night of June 22 as he approached Douala on Cameroon’s coast. He had taken off earlier in the day from Kano, Nigeria. His final destination was to be Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Republic of Congo, which is managed by African Parks, a non-profit group based in Johannesburg.
RPCV Fitzpatrick task would have been to scan the central African park’s clearings for elephant carcasses from his cockpit and alert rangers who could intercept poachers escaping with ivory tusks, the AP report said. There was no mayday signal on the night of Fitzpatrick’s disappearance, suggesting he crashed into a mountain without time to react, and that weather or a fuel shortage was not the cause. No signal was detected from the plane’s emergency transmitter, which can be activated on impact or by the pilot, the report said.
Hunters and farmers found the crash site several days ago and documents there confirmed his identity, Quetong Hardison, a government official in the area, told The Associated Press by telephone on Tuesday. He said officials were working to extract the remains and the wreckage in the Tombel area of southwest Cameroon.” The area is very difficult to access and that is probably why it took such a long time for the plane to be found,” Hardison said.
Those who knew Bill in Sierra Leone or in the U.S. can contact Paula Fitzpatrick at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Matt Losak (Losotho 1985-87) for this ‘Heads Up’.