CASCADE, Idaho – Authorities in Valley County say the search for a missing plane with five people on board has been scaled back today due to poor weather conditions.
The pilot, Dale Smith, lost radar contact with air traffic controllers on Sunday afternoon and last reported headed for the Johnson Creek airstrip near Yellow Pine, Idaho. The plane took off from Baker City, Ore., and was bound for Butte, Mont.
Search crews used four helicopters and five fixed-wing aircraft to comb the area on Thursday, but failed to find any signs of the missing plane or the people on board.
Poor visibility has led to the grounding of search planes and helicopters today.
“Forecasts call for snowfall throughout the weekend and into next week,” said Incident Commander Lt. Dan Smith with the Valley County Sheriff’s Office. “Even though we want to locate this plane, the one thing we cannot do is put people in harm’s way.”
Officials say a limited number of ground searchers will be working the area today until the weather no longer permits.
All available resources have been used in the search for the single-engine BE Beech Bonanza.
Ground crews including those from Valley County Sheriff’s Office, Valley County Search and Rescue, Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue, Idaho Fish and Game, U.S. Forest Service and family members have hiked the ridges and valleys in the vicinity of Johnson Creek airstrip and the surrounding areas.
Earlier in the week, the FAA issued a temporary flight restriction in the search area. That has now been lifted.
The Valley County Sheriff’s Office is not giving up, but is hopeful new information becomes available.
Officials are urging pilots flying in the area to keep an eye out for any signs of the missing aircraft. The missing plane may be outside of the initial search area, but the vast and remote nature of the Idaho backcountry limits the ability to extend the search any further at this time.