BOISE, Idaho — Search and rescue teams are combing the Idaho backcountry on ground and by air for a single-engine plane piloted by a California software executive who lost contact with air traffic controllers Sunday.
The search for the single-engine Beech Bonanza piloted by Dale Smith, of San Jose, Calif., is focused on a remote mountain area near the tiny town of Yellow Pine, about 150 miles northeast of Boise and just beyond the borders of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.
The four passengers on board included Smith’s son and daughter-in-law, Smith’s daughter and her fiancee.
On Tuesday, authorities dispatched two National Guard helicopters and a pair of small planes to help the more than 20 searchers combing the area on foot. Heavy snow, strong winds and low visibility grounded the aircraft during Monday’s search.
The plane left Baker City, Ore., on Sunday en route to Butte, Mont., and was flying over the mountains when Smith reported engine trouble and requested coordinates for a backcountry airstrip near Yellow Pine.
Smith, an executive and co-founder of San Jose-based SerialTek, is described as an experienced pilot. He obtained his pilot’s license in 2005 and had a second-class medical certification, allowing him to operate commercial aircraft, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
“He’s flown all over Canada, the U.S. and Mexico,” said Rand Kriech, who co-founded SerialTek with Smith in 2007. “He’s flown all over, taking doctors and dentists down to Mexico to help the underprivileged. He’s a very giving man … from a very giving family.”
The search began Monday and centered on a mountain ridge near the remote landing strip. Authorities targeted the location after pinging cellphones of Smith and others on board the plane.
The focus shifted slightly Tuesday after authorities detected a faint signal from the plane’s built-in emergency locator transmitter, said Rob Feeley, spokesman for the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security.
Kriech said the family spent the holiday in Baker City and was flying his son and daughter-in-law back to their home in Butte, then was going to fly south to Rexburg, Idaho, where Smith’s daughter and fiancee live.
“We’re all just waiting and hoping here,” Kriech said. “We think today is the day … with the better weather … that we get them found.”
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