Search for missing plane resumes in Idaho

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Associated Press

Posted on December 4, 2013 at 6:34 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 6:36 PM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — More than 60 search and rescue personnel scoured the central Idaho mountains Wednesday for five people, including four family members, who were onboard a plane that disappeared three days earlier.

The search grew to include seven aircraft, up from five on Tuesday, and at least 18 new members of a specially trained ground party looking for the Beech Bonanza piloted by Dale Smith, a 51-year-old software executive from San Jose, Calif., said Rob Feeley of the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security.

A faint emergency beacon was detected Tuesday, but it couldn't be verified by other aircraft searching in the same area Wednesday. As a result, teams have expanded their search area using projections of the possible path of the missing plane.

Others on board included Smith's son, Daniel Smith, and his wife, Sheree, both of Butte, Mont.; and Dale Smith's daughter, Amber Smith, and her fiance, Jonathon Norton, who are students at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg.

After spending the Thanksgiving holiday together, they departed Sunday from Baker City in eastern Oregon in the single-engine plane bound for Butte, Mont.

Over remote country, Smith reported engine trouble and sought coordinates for a landing strip near the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, about 150 miles northeast of Boise.

Since the plane vanished, temperatures have dipped overnight to around zero degrees, while winds and snow showers have further slowed the search in dense stands of trees that could hide wreckage.

"It's heavily forested, which makes it more difficult to spot things, either from the ground or the air," Feeley said.

The search includes five Civil Air Patrol planes and two helicopters from the Idaho National Guard. On the ground, a volunteer crew from Boise-based Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue planned to access the area with snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and on foot.

The Civil Air Patrol is using specialized forward-looking infrared radar, brought in from Wyoming, that detects ground temperatures and can pick up anomalies, such as sunlight reflecting off metal.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, Smith, an executive and co-founder of San Jose-based SerialTek, obtained his pilot's license in 2005 and has a second-class medical certification, which is necessary for commercial flights.

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