Bob Norton, 48, of Bryant "grew up with a missionary spirit and was carrying on for his dad" Elwin, who was killed in a plane crash 29 years ago while serving as a missionary pilot in Mexico, said Bob Norton's mother, Nytta, by phone from her home in Bryant Wednesday.
Norton was accompanied on the flight by his wife, Neiba, a registered nurse. Their passengers included two adults accompanying two sick children, and Gladis Zerpa, another missionary serving as a teacher at La Gran Sabana Adventist School in the Venezuelan state of Bolivar.
A volunteer search team coordinated by Bob Edwards of McMinnville,Tenn., who had worked with Norton on several search and rescue missions a number of years ago, hopes to get satellite images to locate the plane in the dense jungle.
Venezuela's National Civil Aviation Institute and several air rescue groups stopped searching for the plane 72 hours after it was reported missing.
Betsy Burgdorff, a spokeswoman for Gospel Ministries International near Collegedale, Tenn., said that the satellite will not be in position to photograph the location until next Wednesday. Because of the high cost of the project, the team is seeking donations to pay for the images.
Based at the campus as director of Adventist Medical Aviation Venezuela, Norton was on his way to have the plane inspected at Ciudad Bolivar when he received a call to pick up two sick children in the village of Carun and take them to a medical center in another village, said Burgdorff.
Shortly after taking off from Carun, Norton and his passengers encountered bad weather. "There was radio communication, but it could not be determined whether they were in trouble," she said. "But we do know the weather was bad and that it's believed the plane went down in a very dense jungle."
On the night of Feb. 16, Nytta Norton said she received a call from the radioman who had been tracking her son's flight that the aircraft was missing and a search for it and its occupants had begun. She said her youngest son, Bill, and his wife had left the same day to serve as missionaries in New Guinea.
Nytta Norton said her husband was about three minutes from an emergency landing strip when his plane crashed while on a mission trip. They were both serving as missionaries in the country at the time, she said.
Norton said chances are probably slim that her son and his wife and their passengers will be found alive.
"It's extremely dense jungle" where the plane is believed to have crashed, she said. "It may take weeks or months before they find them. But it's all in God's hands, and I'm happy to leave it at that."