Border jumper tossed bags out of plane before arrest at B.C. airport

U.S. Customs and the RCMP worked to catch the suspect

A border hopper in a small aircraft was chased back into Canada by U.S. border patrol agents before being met by Langley RCMP and the ERT at the Langley Regional Airport last Wednesday.

On Nov. 20, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Bellingham Air and Marine Branch detected an airplane entering American airspace and landing at the Methow Valley State Airport in Winthrop, a tiny town of a few hundred people in Washington State, roughly southwest of Osoyoos.

According to U.S. Customs, when agents approached the pilot to question him, “he jumped into his airplane and flew away.”

Agents in airplanes and helicopters pursued the mysterious pilot all the way back to the Canadian border.

On the way, they observed the pilot throw several bags out of the airplane and into the wilderness below.

U.S. Customs received permission to keep chasing the suspect across the 49th parallel and into Canada, where they followed the plane to the Langley Regional Airport.

The pilot was met on the ground by the RCMP Federal Border Enforcement Team, the Emergency Response Team, RCMP Air Services (which flies helicopters out of Langley Airport) and the Langley RCMP.

The man was arrested and his plane seized.

U.S. Customs helicopters remained in the sky during the arrest.

“Due to the exceptional skills of our pilots and air interdiction agents, we were able to ensure that this man did not escape arrest,” said Jeremy Thompson, director of the Bellingham Air and Marine Branch. “Additionally, our partnerships and coordination with Canadian law enforcement agencies played a crucial role in the arrest of this man.”

The Methow Valley Airport is a single runway and taxiway with no control tower.

“It’s an unmanned and uncontrolled airport,” said manager G. Paul Wolf, who manages a host of small airports in Washington.

The airport sees its biggest use in the summer, when it is a staging point for smoke jumpers fighting fires in the state, said Wolf.

There is a self-serve aviation fuel station at the airport.

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