Friends and family are mourning the life of a northeast Oklahoma pilot after a late-afternoon crash claimed his life.

Robert 'Bob' Hudson, 60, Grove was pronounced dead at the scene on Wednesday, Jan. 25, after the Cessna 172 he was piloting crashed into a hayfield approximately one mile east of the rural Zena airport.

According to Joe Nichus, owner of the privately operated airport, Hudson took off from the small rural airport for a 10-minute flight to the Grove Regional Airport in Grove.

Witnesses told Nichus that Hudson took off about 5 p.m., Wednesday and once in the air began to have difficulties. Witnesses attempted to track the plane but lost sight of it among the tree line.

Approximately an hour later, between 6 and 6:30 p.m., area law enforcement personnel were notified Hudson was missing after he failed to arrive as expected in Grove.

A search began on land by members of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Delaware County Sheriff's Office, and on the water by the Grand River Dam Authority Police Department.

Initially the search was conducted north of the airstrip and along the shores of Grand Lake near Shangri-La.

Pilots from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol brought in a helicopter equipped with spotlights to search nearby fields.

Hudson's plane was spotted shortly after 9 p.m., next to a wooded area of the hayfield.

OHP Trooper Micah Stinnett said it appears the plane landed nose first, before resting upside down on its top.

Members of the Zena Fire Department assisted the OHP in extricating Hudson from the wreckage. His body was transported to the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner's Office for autopsy. The results are pending the toxicology report.

Throughout the night and into Thursday, Stinnett and other members of the OHP held the scene waiting for investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board to arrive.

Keith Holloway, media relations specialist with the NTSB, said he expects investigators to take at least two days examining the aircraft in the field. If necessary, it will be moved to a secure location for further examination.

While the preliminary report into the incident may be available within the next 10 days, Holloway said it may take 12 to 18 months to complete the full investigation.

"It's a process," Holloway said. "We look at everything and don't speculate.

"We look at the medical records of the pilot and the maintenance records of the plane. We also do a thorough breakdown of the aircraft. Reviewing the records takes time.

Holloway said the NTSB investigates all civil air accidents, and is the lead aviation agency. Its investigators will be aided by officials from the OHP and Federal Aviation Administration.

In addition to OHP, GRDA and DelCo Sheriff, members of the Grove and Zena Fire Departments and Grove Emergency Medical Services responded to the scene.

More about Hudson

Hudson, along with his wife, Pam, served as the administrator of Aviation Ministries at Mexico Medical Missions. The organization according to its Facebook page "is about loving the Tarahumara Indians like God does, and serving them in every way we can."

According to its website, the non-denominational Christian organization provides medical and community development services to the people of the Sierra Madre Mountains of Chihuahua, which is the largest state in Mexico.

When not living in Mexico, Hudson and his wife resided in Grove. Hudson kept several planes at the Grove Regional Airport, often flying for various groups. For several years he assisted Sam Williams by flying the plane for the Great Grand Bobber Drop.

Visitation for Hudson will take place from 5 to 8 p.m., Monday, Jan. 30, at Calvary Baptist Church in Neosho, Missouri. Services will take place at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Calvary Baptist Church, Neosho. Both under the direction of Ozark Funeral Home in Anderson, Missouri.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to the Mexico Medical Missions.