Barry Chalmers, father of Sheree Chalmers Smith of Glasgow, provided the following to The Courier on Tuesday, Dec. 17. Sheree and her husband, Daniel Smith, are among five people missing since the plane they occupied was lost Dec. 1 near Cascade, Idaho. Sheree and Daniel are pictured on their wedding day.
Sheree and Daniel's family would very much like to thank everyone for their love, support and prayers. It has really gotten us through this.
As you know, Sheree and Daniel Smith were in a plane crash with three other family members: Dale Smith (Daniel's father and the pilot), Amber (Daniel's sister) and her fiancé Jonathon Norton. It occurred Dec. 1, about 1 p.m., north of Cascade, Idaho, as the plane was flying east over the mountains. The plane encountered freezing mist, which coated the wings, covered the windshield and stopped the engine of the plane. Dale, the pilot, radioed for directions to the closest airstrip, which was Johnson Creek. Approach to this airstrip is difficult, though, and can only be made from the north or south. The plane had GPS with terrain display, but with the ice and failing engine could only make broad turns.
About 30 minutes after the plane was lost on radar, the FAA started looking at the information and started a search for the plane. Conditions were cloudy at the time and people on the ground could not see anything in the air, but the plane was heard over the Johnson Creek airstrip (close to its last radar location) and also over Stibnite mine about 7 miles to the East.
Radar cannot see planes in the area once they drop below about 10,000 feet, and the plane had to descend because of the ice. We listened to the Stibnite workers in detail, in order to get a better idea of the flight path. They described the plane as very close to the mine, we think within 1 or 2 miles, and sounding like it was banking hard, heading south at the time. Mountains in the area range from 5,000 feet to about 9,500 feet.
We, Jared and Barry Chalmers, joined the search as well. At that time, we had a helicopter, snow mobiles and tracked ATVs to help us. Conditions were very hard in the area. Snow depth was up to 5 feet deep and most of the slopes have a 30 degree or steeper incline. Drifting snow even stopped our snowmobiles, and conditions became dangerous for us.
The search was the largest in Cascade County coordinated by the sheriff's department and the Idaho Division of Aeronautics. We received help from the Air National Guard, Idaho Search and Rescue, neighboring counties, U.S. Air Force, local pilots, snowmobile clubs and members, ATV dealers, and many volunteers. We also had help from the neighboring Stibnite Mine (owned by Midas Gold) and its employees, from D&G Sports & Western here in Glasgow, Prairie Aviation, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the National Geospatial Agency and many others.
We now surmise that the plane was able to continue flying for a few minutes after it was lost from radar. Dale was an excellent pilot and had dealt with freezing conditions before. We think he was able to restart his engine for a time as it flew over Stibnite. We listened to other aircraft in flight as we searched, and we know that they cannot be heard for more than a mile or two or if they are behind a mountain. But how far the plane continued, we do not know. So our search area covers many square miles.
We also know from other plane crashes in the area that it is extremely unlikely that those in the plane survived the crash. Also temperatures were 10 or more degrees below zero in the mountains since then. We are sure Sheree, Daniel and the others have passed on. Nevertheless, the search for the plane continues. Search and rescue authorities and the FAA continue to investigate the data, and we have enlisted the help of local pilots familiar with the area and who fly into the local airstrips regularly. The ground search will have more chance of success in the summer, when the snow melts. It is likely that we will not hear anything until then.
Sheree and Daniel's family would especially like to thank all those who helped, prayed and remembered us at this time. We want to thank all those who have been such good friends to them here in Glasgow and around the world.