The AWOL Army private who, while en route to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, piloted a plane perilously close to President Reagan's helicopter, will remain in Navy custody indefinitely while the Secret Service investigates, a Navy spokesman said Monday.
Pvt. Ralph W. Myers, 32, had been scheduled to return Monday or Tuesday to Fort Lewis, Wash., where he was reported absent without leave on Aug. 3.
"The Secret Service has requested of the Army, and the Army has requested of us, that we hold Myers in place here sort of indefinitely so they can continue their investigation," said Lt. John Anderson of the Long Beach Naval Station.
Anderson declined to say why the Secret Service wanted Myers held, referring further inquiries to that agency.
An "AWOL apprehension team" had been dispatched Monday morning to return the soldier to the base just southwest of Tacoma; the team was still en route to Long Beach when the Secret Service requested that Myers be kept there, said Maj. Frank Ham of Fort Lewis.
"All our activities have been placed on hold now," Ham said.
Myers had been flying Oregon businessman Harlan Lee Jones to an Orange County business meeting with Donald Nixon Jr., former President Richard Nixon's nephew, when his plane narrowly missed Reagan's helicopter over the mountains north of Santa Barbara, where the President's Rancho del Cielo is located.
Jones said the plane had inadvertently flown into restricted airspace while Myers searched the cockpit for a contact lens he had lost.