Candlelight vigil held for missing trio in plane disappearance

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) -- Family members in Bakersfield and in Wyoming are hoping for the best, as a search continues for 37-year-old Matthew Ahrens, his 34-year-old girlfriend Trista Meyer and her 9-year-old daughter Shyanne Lenz.

The trio has been missing since Sunday when their small Piper Archer II plane disappeared over the skies of Utah. The left from Minter Field in Shafter and were heading to Gillette, Wyoming. A search by the Civil Air Patrol was called off as darkness fell Wednesday evening.

"It's really hard, rugged terrain, it's really rough out there," said Mark Lenz, father of 9-year-old Shyanne.

During a phone interview from Gillette, Wyoming, Lenz said the search is concentrating on a vast area where it will be difficult find a small plane.

A candlelight vigil was held in Gillette, Wyoming as word spread that the three were still missing. Lenz said the event was gut-wrenching.

"We did the 'Our father who art in heaven' prayer'...there was a lot of prayers," said Lenz.

Ahrens, Meyer and Lenz along with their two dogs came to Kern County to visit family for the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Ahrens was piloting the plane, said his sister Donna Moran.

"We had a wonderful time with the whole family. It's utter chaos when all 21 of us get together," said Moran.

Ahrens was raised in Bakersfield, graduating from South High School. He is an experienced pilot, as is his older brother, David.
David is now helping in the search and flying his own plane, said Moran.

After visiting family, the trio headed back to Gillette, Wyoming Sunday morning. They left from Minter Field in Shafter and headed to Tehachapi for fuel, said Moran. From Tehachapi, they flew to Fillmore, Utah for another refueling. And that's the last time
anyone heard from them.

"Just after he took off in the air, his girlfriend texted her sister that they were on their way and they should be there in three hours. And they never made it," said Moran.

A huge crowd turned out at the candlelight vigil to pray for the three missing persons. Mark Lenz said he was overwhelmed by the show of support from strangers.

"Let's hope that tomorrow or the next day we can get 'em home, I can grab my little girl and tell her how much I love her," said Lenz.

The search resumes Thursday morning.