JACKSON COUNTY -- A team of five volunteers from Texas EquuSearch came to South Mississippi to help find a downed plane, its pilot and two passengers, all presumed dead.
"We've got some equipment that is more high-tech than what they had been using in the search," Tim Miller, founder of the search group, said. "Our sonar units are more up to date, and I think we have a lot more experience."
Miller and a team of four others got into town Sunday. On Monday, they launched a drone over the water near Ocean Springs where a portion of the plane's tail was found. The drone will help determine areas to focus on in their search.
The group went out as weather and water conditions allowed Monday on a 28-foot Carolina skiff and a 24-foot Skully.
Gerald Miletello, of West Monroe, La., Dexter Brown, of Saucier, and pilot Ron Gregory have been missing since their Lancair single-engine aircraft disappeared Oct. 26, just minutes after takeoff from the Million Air terminal at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane around 12:30 p.m. and the plane's last known location was 3.5 miles south of Pascagoula over the water.
Miletello's wife, Pam Miletello, has pleaded with the public to continue the search for their loved ones.
The search and recovery mission was suspended days after the plane went down. A portion of the tail of the aircraft was found shortly after the search began when it washed ashore at an Ocean Springs beach.
Miller said the families reached out to them for help.
Once Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell agreed to bring in assistance, he said the group headed to Mississippi. He said they arrived Sunday.
The Jackson County Sheriff's Flotilla has also continued its search despite the official search and recovery missing being called off.
Miller said he and his team got in town Sunday. They launched their first boat shortly before noon Monday.
Miller formed the non-profit search group after his daughter, Laura, was abducted in North Galveston County in Texas in 1984. Miller said police treated the case like a runaway and he couldn't find anyone to help him find his daughter. Seventeen months passed before someone found Miller's daughter and two other girls murdered 2 1/2 miles from Miller's home. There was never an arrest.
"I know firsthand what these families go through," he said. "It was a long torcherous 17 months before my daughter was found by accident. I remember every bit of those 17 months of helplessness, hopelessness and fear. I just made a promise to God and Laura that I'd never leave a family alone if there is anything we can do. We've got more rescues than law enforcement agencies."
Miller said their search team has found two downed planes over the years, one in New York and one in Texas. In New York they found the bodies of three people inside the plane, and they found one body in the Texas plane.
The group has also searched for missing persons in various high-profile cases, including the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba.
"I've been to Aruba nine times," he said.
The group has been involved in more than 1,320 searches in 42 states along with various other searches in other countries. The group's efforts have resulted in the recovery of remains of 140 missing people. In addition, they have found more than 300 missing persons.
"We want to bring closure to these families," Miller said.
The Coast Guard and other response crews searched early-on an area that covered 3,500 square miles. That search was later suspended.