The plane wreckage that triggered the search was actually a garden decoration

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The Coast Guard called off the search for survivors this week after discovering it was not an accident, but that they had been placed there intentionally.

RAINIER, Ore. – One man’s scrap metal may be another man’s treasure – but it’s not often that this treasure elicits a response from the Coast Guard.

Gary Welter’s property in Warren, Oregon features an eclectic collection of what some might consider “junk” turned into court art, with each piece having its own story to tell.

“This truck right here is possibly going to be a picnic table,” Welter said, walking over to an old van. Nearby, half of a 1985 Corvette has been converted into a portal. A 1956 Chevrolet sits in the front yard. Welter said he was either going in the trash or his front yard, and he chose the yard.

“I see something and it kind of hits me and we do it,” Welter said.

What Gary didn’t know was that one particular piece of art would cause a stir. Along his private beach, Welter has the tail of a twin-engine Piper Comanche plane sticking out of the tree line.

“It came off just at the fuselage, at the tail,” he said, pointing to the tail of the plane. The tail of the wreck was deposited on the shore at the end of June. Welter’s friend, Chuck Hamm, was the co-owner of the plane and was going to destroy it.

“Gary said, what are you going to do with the tail? What are you going to do with that wing? Everything is going to be destroyed, it’s not recoverable,” said Hamm.

Welter told Hamm about his plans to turn it into court art. Hamm told him to come get him.

RELATED: Plane Wreckage Spotted Along Columbia River Came From 2020 Crash, Coast Guard Says

Like all Welter pieces, the plane wreck has its own story to tell. The story of how it came to rest 55 miles from where it crashed begins on March 18, 2020.

Chuck Hamm was co-owner of the plane with his cousin, George Sheasley. Sheasley had taken off from Eagle Nest Ranch Airport near Estacada on the afternoon of March 18, 2020.

Shortly after take off, something went wrong and Sheasley crashed. Neighbors pulled him out of the wreckage, he was taken to a hospital for life with severe burns. The NTSB said the crash was still under investigation.

“If there had been no neighbors at the time of the crash, he would have burned alive on the plane.” Hamm said, “They managed to get him out of the plane and the plane burned down to a hulk. You couldn’t even recognize it as an airplane, other than the wing and tail.”

Sheasley died months later. The plane was moved to Welter’s property 56 miles away, off Highway 30 near Rainier.

No one paid much attention, until a passing boater called the coast guard to report a plane crash on Monday.

The Coast Guard responded by launching a helicopter to search for survivors. A lifeguard swimmer took a closer look and determined that the wreckage was from the March 2020 crash. The search for survivors was called off.

“I never thought something like this would happen, kinda blown up. I hope that makes everyone laugh. We weren’t trying to make a splash,” Welter said.

Hamm says his cousin would have been delighted with the whole situation.

“His sense of humor and stuff, I know he looks down and laughs and says ‘Chuckie, what have you done now?'”

RELATED: Investigators Search for Cargo Plane in Ocean Off Hawaii



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