With chances of survival dwindling, a family clings to hope or a miracle as the search for a missing plane, containing to Glasgow residents, is scaled back.
Five family members Sheree Chalmers-Smith and her husband Daniel Smith of Glasgow boarded the plane on Sunday, Dec. 1. The pilot of the plane, Dale Smith, is Sheree’s father-in-law. Amber Smith, a sister-in-law, and her fiancée, Jonathon Norton all went missing as the plane reported an engine failure near Johnson Creek Airstrip around 3:30 p.m. in Valley County, Idaho.
The search for the BE-36 Beech Bonanza has been ongoing since. The searches had been called off in the evenings as rugged terrain and poor weather and light conditions threatened the safety of those combing the area for hopes of finding a clue to the whereabouts of the plane.
Incident Commander Lt. Dan Smith, and the public information officer for Valley County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho, said he’s been involved with the search from the beginning. He said that the search had been scaled back on Friday, Dec. 6. Lack of information and poor visibility has begun to limit the number of ground searchers and create safety concerns.
“We’re still holding onto hope that maybe they could have made it to a cabin or something, but we’ve covered every back country airport and have no clues as to where they went,” Lt. Dan Smith said.
He explained that the signal they received was very weak and only came in for a few hours. They haven’t been able to confirm that signal came from the missing plane and they have searched the radius of the signal extensively with no luck. He said that several trees were down from fires and windstorms, causing some areas to be impassable by foot and taking some hikers six or seven hours to get through some areas.
“It’s been really tough on all our employees and dispatchers,” Lt. Dan Smith said. “We’ve used every piece of equipment and idea and have come up empty handed.”
The plane left from Baker City, Ore., and had planned to land in Butte. With another storm scheduled to bring heavy snow to the area, family members have been left frustrated. Lt. Dan Smith said that the local community has been helping to support the family that came to help with the search. Residents near Cascade, Idaho, and those from outside the area have stepped up and paid for lodging and food.
Lt. Dan Smith said that they had as many as 60 people on foot searching at one time and as many as eight planes and helicopters searching at one time. He explained that many aircraft in a small area was pushing the envelope at times. The Sheriff’s Office will continue to consider other options and possibilities if and when new information comes available and as conditions and resources will allow.