Four weeks after a private plane carrying former Tracyites Gary and Peggy Toste Thomas disappeared in a storm over the Baja Peninsula of Mexico, a search by volunteer pilots has come up empty, ending efforts to find the plane or its occupants.
Jack McCormick, administrator of Baja Bush Pilots, has reported that the final five-day search was officially called off Friday evening after the last pilot returned to the Mulege, Mexico, airstrip without any sightings over land or water.
McCormick told Peggy Thomas’ father, Joe Toste of Tracy, that last week’s concentrated search by 12 aircraft covered nearly all the territory over a 140-mile stretch of land and the Gulf of California, from south of Mulege north past the Bay of Los Angeles, without finding any trace of the single-engine Bonanza plane lost in a hurricane Oct. 23.
McCormick reported on the Baja Bush Pilots Web site:
“… Most troubling is that most of those who fly this route, including the Thomases, normally fly up and down the coast over water.”
McCormick told Toste that it could take up to a year for any debris from the plane to wash up on shore. One pilot in last week’s search reported seeing something in the water of the gulf, but a helicopter pilot making a closer inspection determined it was a canvas sail.
“Sure, this is disappointing not to find anything,” Toste said. “But those Baja Bush Pilots did all they could in two concentrated searches, and we are thankful for that.”
Toste said he was disappointed the American consulate in Tijuana couldn’t convince the Mexican government to request that U.S. Coast Guard aircraft join the search.
Gary Thomas, 52, and his wife Peggy Toste Thomas, 45, moved from Tracy to Escalon several years ago. Peggy Thomas’ two children continue to live in Escalon. Joseph Fagundes, 19, is a student at San Joaquin Delta College, and Samantha Fagundes, 16, attends St. Mary’s High School in Stockton.