Utah dive team recovers bodies of men whose plane crashed into Great Salt Lake

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The sun sets over the Great Salt Lake.

A dive team on Saturday removed the bodies of two men from the wreckage of a small plane that crashed into the Great Salt Lake.

The men — 71-year-old pilot Denny Mansell and passenger Peter Ellis, 74 — had been missing since they took off from the Ogden Hinckley Airport on Dec. 29, en route to the Promontory area.

Crews from Weber and Box Elder counties arrived at the lake about 7:30 a.m. Saturday and pulled the bodies from about 20 feet of water about 11:30 a.m., Box Elder County Chief Deputy Dale Ward said in a news release.

Searchers had spotted the plane Jan. 7 while looking for the men, but weather and equipment issues postponed the dive until Saturday.

Ward said lake and weather conditions Saturday were “excellent for the operation,” but added it was the most technical dive either crew had ever conducted, partly because of the lake’s salinity.

Divers had to double their weight to get deep enough to find the plane, and once underwater, they couldn’t see anything that was more than a few inches away, Ward said.

Crew members prepped for the murky dive over the past week by familiarizing themselves with a similar plane at the Ogden airport, learning how to open the doors and undo safety belts by feel.

National Transportation Safety Bureau investigators were on scene for the recovery, and will investigate the crash and eventually remove the plane from the lake, Ward said.

The state medical examiner’s office will determine Mansell and Ellis’ cause of death.

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