It was like finding a needle in a haystack. It was any family member’s nightmare. A plane occupied by five people known as brothers, husbands, daughters and sons fell from the sky over rugged terrain in Idaho in the cold winter months.
After a holiday getaway in Oregon, the family boarded a plane, flown by Dale Smith, a software executive in California. The plane ran into problems and ended up crashing on Dec. 1. Two passengers, Daniel Smith, Dale Smith’s son, and Sheree Chalmers Smith were headed back to Glasgow after Thanksgiving. Daniel Smith’s sister, Amber Smith, and her fiancé, Jonathan Norton, were also on board.
This weekend, the words on the lips of local residents and Dale’s wife, Janice, were, “They found the plane.” The search that lasted six weeks for that plane is finally over. No one survived the crash.
Dale’s brother, Dellon Smith, continued the search along with several other family members, including Sheree’s father and brother, Barry and Jared Chalmers, along with many community members after local authorities called off the search. Snowmobile clubs continued to search. People on planes flying around the area kept their eyes open.
Dellon, a cargo pilot based in Alaska, continued another search from Jan. 8-10. He gathered people, pilots and planes to help with another effort. Dellon found the plane only hours before the search was to be called off for the time being.
In a report that wrapped up the search posted on the family’s website, listening to the recording may have revealed more information. Idaho Division of Aeronautics personnel transcribed sections of the audio; another volunteer from McCall gave an analysis of possible flight paths made according to the last radar. He believed the plane was somewhere on the southern portion of Antiomy Ridge.
Weather kept the crew from searching on Tuesday, Jan. 7. The following day, Dellon and several others began searching a grid. After a day of searching, the crew returned home after fighting through three to four feet of snow. The search continued the next day under similar conditions.
On Friday, Jan. 10, the team set a plan in place based off eyewitness accounts of hearing the plane, the possible flight paths and other information that had been gathered. The team was searching a specific area where someone had indicated seeing an anomaly on footage taken by Jim Hudson on Jan. 6. The anomaly was just a speck of reflection that came from the northern edge of the planned search area.
That area ended up being a dead end. The family discovered remains of the plane in a different location at 1:50 p.m. on the final day of the search. Soon after, they notified authorities and family and the plan for recovery began that evening. Due to poor weather conditions over the weekend, the bodies were not recovered but the family is able to find closure.
“The plane is in pieces and buried in snow. They have not yet found all the parts. However, we do know my family members on the plane died quickly and painlessly. They did not suffer,” Janice wrote.
Barry sent an email to The Courier letting the community and those who helped with the search how grateful they were. He explained that the search for the plane had never ended for the family. Barry and Jared had searched near the mountain where the plane was found. Barry added that additional snow coming into the area would make things difficult for recovery, but that local authorities were working on it.