Searchers find missing Idaho plane, but no survivors
Published: January 10, 2014 09:54PM
Updated: January 12, 2014 03:09PM
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(Courtesy photo) Jonathon Norton and Amber Smith were on board the plane that went missing Dec. 1 in Idaho. Searchers located the plane's wreckage Friday and said it appears all four passengers and the pilot died on impact.

Searchers Friday found the wreckage of a small plane that disappeared nearly a month and a half ago in Idaho with five people on board.

The six-seat, single-engine airplane vanished Dec. 1, sparking an extensive search with hundreds of volunteers in the rugged mountains of central Idaho, about 100 miles northeast of Boise. The search for the missing plane lasted more than a week and included both ground and air crews, but tapered off as time and frigid temperatures sapped most hope of finding survivors.

Alan Dayton of Salt Lake City — whose nephew Jonathon Norton, and his fiancée Amber Smith, were on the plane — said Friday the plane was discovered about 3 p.m. near a ridge a short distance from the Johnson Creek Airport.

The Valley County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Friday that the plane had been discovered. There were no survivors and recovery efforts were expected to be delayed by an approaching winter storm.

The searchers discovered that the plane’s wings had been torn off, Dayton added. Searchers also were able to see that the bodies of the passengers were still inside the plane.

Neither Dayton nor the sheriff’s office knew what caused the plane to crash, though Dayton said it appears the craft — a 1983-model Beech B36TC that was en route from Oregon to Montana — was trying to turn and make it to the Johnson Creek Airport. The plane disappeared from radar shortly after its pilot radioed Salt Lake City air traffic controllers about engine trouble.

According to Dayton, the pilot’s brother, Dellon Smith, and another volunteer, Arthur Stock, found the plane. The two men were part of a group that had been searching the area since Jan. 8.

According to Dayton, the searchers found the plane after receiving a tip from a woman who saw the plane on the website Tomnod.

Dayton called the crash site “sacred ground” Friday and said family members are relieved to finally know what happened.

“Personally I feel like it’s important to me to know this is the place where Jonathan finally rested,” he said.

Norton and Smith were seniors at BYU-Idaho. Their wedding was scheduled for Jan. 4.

Others on the plane included the pilot, Dale Smith, his son Daniel Smith and Daniel’s wife, Sheree Smith.

jdalrymple@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jimmycdii