Search for missing plane near Yellow Pine resumes with more help

Credit: Idaho Transportation Department

Search for missing plane near Yellow Pine resumes with more help




Posted on December 2, 2013 at 11:51 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 5:12 PM

Johnson Creek Airstrip

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VALLEY COUNTY, Idaho --  Authorities in Valley County have resumed the search for a missing airplane with five aboard near the Johnson Creek Airstrip, south of Yellow Pine, Idaho.

Just yesterday, an emergency beacon was detected about a mile south of the airstrip. Searchers are expected to focus on that area, along with a five-mile radius around the airstrip.

Three additional fixed-wing aircraft from the Civil Air Patrol are expected to bolster Wednesday's search efforts, according to spokesperson Mallory Eils with the State Bureau of Homeland Security.

A group of volunteers with the Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue group is also expected to assist.

In total, 50 to 60 rescuers are said to be searching the area, including five airplanes and two helicopters. Cold, clear weather is expected to make conditions tough for those on the ground, but better for aircraft.

"As far as clear skies moving in, it looks very favorable for the aircraft," Eils said.

Valley County officials caution members of the public from helping in the search.

“With the additional resources, rugged terrain, and difficult weather conditions, we are encouraging citizens not to attempt to volunteer to help with the search,” said Incident Commander Lt Dan Smith with the Valley County Sheriff’s Office. “Untrained individuals create safety concerns and detract resources from the search effort.”

Weather conditions improved Tuesday, and the search for the BE-36 Beech Bonanza resumed in the air and on the ground.

Officials were able to narrow down the search area after an emergency locator transmitter signal was detected about a mile south of the airstrip Tuesday morning. However, that signal was very weak and searchers could not find the source.

Authorities say five people were on board the BE-36 Beech Bonanza when it was reported missing. The aircraft is an early 1980s model, white and maroon, and has six seats. 

The plane took off from Baker City, Oregon at 11 a.m. PST Sunday and went off radar around 1 p.m. MST near Yellow Pine, about 50 miles northwest of Cascade. It was bound for Butte, Mont.


Family members say the five people on the missing plane include the pilot, Dale Smith, along with son Daniel Smith and his wife Sheree Smith, and daughter Amber Smith of San Jose, Calif., with her fiancé Jonathon Norton.

Valley County Sheriff's Deputy Lt. Dan Smith says Dale Smith is an experienced pilot.

"We have significant resources dedicated to this search effort," said Lt. Smith.  "We are hopeful that the break in the weather will allow us to locate the missing aircraft."

Two helicopters from the Idaho National Guard and two fixed wing aircraft from the Civil Air Patrol were able to get up in the skies Tuesday because of more favorable weather.

Searchers are hopeful that those favorable weather conditions will allow for continued air and ground searches in the coming days. Those efforts continue to be complicated due to communication challenges faced by the searchers in the remote, mountainous terrain.


Civil Air Patrol planes have been sticking to a five mile radius of Johnson Creek.

A flight restriction has been issued for all airplanes in the area from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Aircraft, other than those directly involved in the search, are restricted from flying below 10,500 feet above sea level, which is about 1,000 feet above mountain peaks in the area. This will keep the search-area canopy clear to search.

Snow has been falling in the central Idaho mountains and overnight temperatures got down to around zero degrees.

Click here to see live web cam from Johnson Creek Airstrip.