Nearly three and a half years later, and the question of what happened to Bryant, Alabama's missing missionaries still goes unanswered. Bob and Neiba Norton had been serving in Venezuela for more than seven years when tragedy struck. Bob was a medical missionary pilot and his wife was a nurse. Together, they served the Indigenous Indians in the Gran Sabana jungle region of Southeast Venezuela. On the morning of February 16, 2009, Bob and Neiba along with five passengers disappeared while on an emergency medical flight from the village of Karun.
A traditional style search was conducted by the dedicated Venezuelan Civil Protection by air for more than 20 days and the local Indians by ground for several months. The major challenge was that there was more than 10,000 square miles of jungle area where Norton could have gone down. A needle in the haystack, if you will. While this effort was underway, long time friend of Norton, Bob Edwards from McMinnville, Tn., began networking and pulling together a unique team of engineers, search technicians, pilots and house wives. Over the past three years, Edwards and team, have conducted satellite image analysis, held two search summits, developed containment analysis and have worked with experienced search technicians from Yosemite National Park and the Missing Aircraft Search Team (M.A.S.T.). Edwards has traveled three times to Venezuela to help with the search effort. Once with one of Norton's sons, Robbie. Once by himself, and once with Tim Evinger from M.A.S.T.
The team continues to gather clues, conduct interviews, work with the Civil Protection, government officials and network with companies and technicians from different technological fields to try and find the crash site. The team's goal is to locate the crash site to provide answers and closure to the family and friends of those on board. “Without finding it, there really is no closure,” says Edwards. “We can speculate, but that's all it is without the facts.”
The Norton Search Team, as they are now referred to, are preparing for their third search summit and fourth trip to Venezuela. When asked how long they will continue the search Edwards said, “The team will continue as long as there are resources to do more and as long as there is something else that they can do.” The team believes they may have brought back enough clues from their trip early this year to significantly reduce the search area.
To help with their expenses, there will be a Benefit Concert at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Centennial Theater, 1400 Market Street, on Saturday, Aug. 18, at 8:30 p.m. Ohio's 16-person tribute band “Comeback Special” will be performing Elvis' classic hits in an authentic re-enactment concert. Also performing “Old Time Rock & Roll Favorites” is North Georgia's band “Backroads.” The cost is $20 per person. Tickets may be purchased at local Rock / Creek Outfitters, 301 Manufacturers Road or 2200 Hamilton Place Boulevard or at the door the night of the concert. Proceeds go to fund the continuation of the search effort. For more information about the search visit the team website: www.findingbobnorton.org .
Bob Edwards, is the team leader of The Norton Search Team. 206 Lind St. McMinnville, Tn. 37110. Cell 423 280-8217. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.