NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY - An American pilot missing in Africa has connections to Eastern North Carolina. According to family members, Bill Fitzpatrick who is originally from New York, went missing in mid June and now they hope President Obama can help find him.
Bill Fitzpatrick's cousin, Tom Conway of New Bern, says Fitzpatrick is an experienced pilot. He says he started flying when he was sixteen.
The native New Yorker spent more than twenty years as a pilot with the United States National Park Service until his retirement two years ago. Since then, he took an opportunity to work for the African Park Service as an anti-poaching pilot. On June 22nd of this year, family members say Fitzpatrick went missing while on a trip from Nigeria to Cameroon. Family members have been unable to track down any trace of their loved one or his Cessna 172 airplane.
"Both Nigeria and Cameroon initially helped out but neither country claimed responsibility or helped much in looking for him," said Conway.
Family members don't know if Fitzpatrick is dead, alive, or in captivity. There is also no indication as to why his plane may have gone down. Family members say it happened about sixty miles from his destination. Fitzpatrick's relatives have started a website, www.findbillfitzpatrick.com. It's dedicated to raising awareness of his disappearance in hopes of finding him. There's also a link to a White House petition to get the U.S. government involved.
"The President and the White House could possibly put more pressure on basically Nigeria to help us find out what happened the day the plane went missing," said Fitzpatrick's sister-in-law, Stephanie Wills, who lives in the Outer Banks.
In order for the White House to take notice the petition needs 100,000 signatures by September ninth. Currently, there are just under 1,700. Family members say they just want answers.
"The hardest part is just not knowing and not really being able to do anything ourselves," said Wills.
Family members say the African Park Service has been helpful in the search. According to the APS website the last update on Fitzpatrick was given in early July. Fitzpatrick's wife and children live in the Seattle area.
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