Search continues for missing plane in Idaho

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VALLEY COUNTY, Idaho — A small plane has been missing since Sunday, and searchers are struggling to find it in the brutal cold.

Passengers on the plane were last heard from when the pilot reported engine trouble in the remote mountains northeast of Boise last Sunday. Search crews reported hearing an emergency locator beacon on Tuesday, but they haven't heard it since.

The search area was expanded Thursday with more equipment in the air and on the ground. The search has been a multi-state effort in the air and on the ground scouring the wilderness not far from the remote community of Yellow Pine, Idaho. While the weather was clear today, the search conditions remain extremely cold and rugged.

"It's been a couple days now," said Rand Kriech, a colleague of Dale Smith, the pilot of plane. "So the longer this goes on, the more worrisome it gets. But we're still hopeful."

Kriech, who along with Dale Smith, co-founded a high tech company in San Jose, California.

Smith, his son and wife, as well as his daughter and fiancé had celebrated Thanksgiving in Oregon. The plane then left for Butte, Montana on Sunday but has not been seen since Smith reported engine trouble.

Major Jason Hess is the Director of Operations with the Utah Civil Air Patrol. He's been in contact with searchers in Idaho, and will respond immediately with additional planes and pilots if the call comes in. He said the Idaho search is more difficult because pilots aren't flying in a traditional flat grid pattern.

"So it changes the way we execute our search patterns, typically to a terrain following our contour based search or in canyon type searches, we'll fly to the top of a canyon and fly down the draw on either side," Hess said.

Dale Smith's last radio contact was with Salt Lake air controllers when he asked for coordinates to this landing strip. His wife told relatives in Utah that the family is praying that if the plane landed, those on board have found shelter.

"It did come up that this place is pretty remote and there are people who are far more remote, and are remote enough to have a cabin and their own airstrip," said Dale Smith relative, Rich Nelson. "So that's one of the threads of hope is maybe they made it there."

The Utah Wing of the Civil Air Patrol has nine planes with as many as 25 pilots and additional ground staff who can respond if needed. The search was called off for the night and will resume Friday morning.


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Keith McCord


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