Search underway for missing parachutist

August 13, 2008 5:44:43 PM PDT
Search crews spent Wednesday looking for a man who vanished while flying in a motorized parachute. Several people say they saw the man disappear while flying over Sylvan Beach in La Porte. Search and rescue crews worked for at least eight hours trying to find the man. They appear to be concentrating on the area just off of Sylvan Beach near the Houston Ship Channel. Seabrook Fire Department dive teams are ready to join the search if needed.

Witnesses say before they saw the man go, it looked like he was unresponsive and not alert.

"We were watching and we were worried about him because the rain had already come through, and the wind," recalled eyewitness Brittany Campbell.

Campbell says around 8am she saw a person gliding along in a powered parachute above the bait shop where she works.

She said, "I came out here and you could see him. His parachute looked like it was red or something, but you could see him hanging from it."

The powered parachutes come in all different varieties. Most are handmade, built from kits and have motorized fans on the back.

Brittany says after watching the parachute for several minutes, she saw the man go into the water and never come back up.

"His parachute stayed up for a few seconds, but then it was gone and we couldn't see anything again," she said.

Shortly after the reports came in, the Coast Guard began searching Galveston Bay from the air. Several local police and fire departments, as well as Texas Equusearch with its special sonar equipment, concentrated on the water.

Tim Miller of Texas Equusearch said, "We've certainly got images of crab traps that are out there, very, very clear. Then we got some other images of something that looked like it shouldn't have been there, and then what appears as those some things have been dragged. We're downloading all that into our laptop now."

The Seabrook fire chief tells Eyewitness News there have been so many reports that people saw something that it's hard to believe nothing is in the water.

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