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Airplane Found!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010







Terrain at crash site

(Lander, WY) – Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker confirmed the wreckage of a single-engine fixed-wing aircraft was found late Monday in the primary search area east of the Continental Divide. Searchers on the scene reported there were no survivors. The crash site was found approximately one mile east of the aircraft’s last known location near Indian Pass at an elevation of about 11,100 feet early this evening, Nov. 1, 2010.


Four members of a Minnesota family were on board.


Searchers found the aircraft exactly seven days after it disappeared from radar Monday, October 25, on a flight from Jackson Hole to Riverton, en route to Minneapolis. The aircraft left Jackson’s airport in a snowstorm. The crash site is in the Fitzpatrick Wilderness Area of the Shoshone National Forest.


The wreckage was found in a small steep drainage on the side of a mountain in a boulder field. A ground search team comprised of two women and one man, all technical mountaineers was traversing down the side of the mountain when they spotted the wreckage from above. The wreckage was partially covered with snow. The discovery of the missing aircraft followed an exhaustive effort by both ground and air searchers from multiple agencies in northwest Wyoming.


During the seven day-long search, a total of nine aircraft and 13 ground teams were involved. Searchers logged a total of about 1,500 man-hours while committed aircraft time was 60 hours. The command and logistics team coordinating the search logged about 2,000 man-hours.


The Fremont County Coroner’s office now assumes management of the recovery operation.  Coroner Ed McAuslan said recovery of the crash victims would begin this morning. Once recovered the crash victims will be taken to the Fremont County Morgue in Lander, pending autopsy. Once released, the crash victim’s bodies will be moved to Hudson’s Funeral Home in Lander where arrangements will be made in accordance with the wishes of the family.

 Further information will be released after the recovery operation.


The lead agencies that directed the search effort were the Fremont County Search and Rescue Team and the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department. Searchers came from across Fremont County and multiple other agencies and organizations were involved, including the National Outdoor Leadership School, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Wyoming State Forestry Division, Bureau of Land Management, Civil Air Patrol, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming Army National Guard, Sublette County’s Tip Top Search and Rescue Team, Park County Search and Rescue Team, U.S. Forest Service, City of Lander, Fremont Counseling Service, Wyoming, Inc, the Wyoming Department of Homeland Security and the office of Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal.


“We want to express our most sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family and we thank the many dozens of volunteers and agencies who assisted in this effort,” said Incident Commander Chip Williams of Lander.


The search was the 49th search and rescue operation mounted in Fremont County this year.








(Lander, WY) – Blessed with clear skies and warmer weather, ground and air search teams are putting in a full day of searching this afternoon for a missing aircraft in the rugged Wind River Range of northwest Wyoming. The missing craft disappeared from radar one week ago.


Through mid-day Monday, no physical trace of the aircraft has been found.


Searchers today concentrated their efforts in what was termed as the “area of highest probability,” that area around the aircraft’s last known radar position.


“We have two teams consisting of the ‘best of the best” technical mountaineers out there today searching some of the toughest terrain,” said Operations Chief Jason Aanestad. “We will keep them there as long as the helicopter crews allow us too.”


Aanestad also reported that because of the clear weather today, air units are able to put in additional flight hours. Through Saturday, air teams had logged over 260 hours in the search.



Photo #1 – Searcher Nick Czarnicki uses binoculars to search terrain in the primary search area on Friday.


Photo #2 – An aerial view of the primary search area of the Wind River Mountain Range of Northwest Wyoming.




Monday, November 1, 2010

 (Lander, WY) – Fully one week after a light airplane with four members of a Minnesota family on board went off of radar over the rugged Wind River Mountains of northwest Wyoming, search organizers today are sending two more ground teams into the field and four more aircraft.


The Incident Command staff overseeing the search and rescue mission met until late last night pouring over all search routes and data secured from the previous six days of search operations. A plan based on that review was formulated early today and the plan is now being initiated.


“Today we are going to concentrate on clearing the areas of highest probability, including an area just west of the aircraft’s last known radar contact,” said Operations Chief Jason Aanestad.  “We are continuing to work on pinpointing the source of an elusive emergency transponder signal (ELT) that is reverberating in the area, as well.”


All previous attempts to determine the location of a presumed emergency signal with the use of highly sophisticated air and ground detection equipment has frustrated rescuers. Today, two specialized aircraft with detection equipment on board will resume the search. Both are fixed winged-aircraft, one from the Wyoming Civil Air Patrol and the second from the Park County (WY) Search and Rescue Team. In addition, two helicopters will continue searching in a grid pattern, again in the area of highest probability based on radar data.


Since initiation of the search after the aircraft disappeared from radar in a snowstorm one week ago this afternoon, numerous air and ground search efforts have been launched in an attempt to find clues to the missing plane. As of today, no physical evidence of the 1977 model Mooney aircraft has been found.

UPDATE: Search for missing aircraft at 9:00 A.M. M.S.T.


(Lander, WY) – Poor weather conditions Saturday evening resulted in two ground teams spending the night at an elevation of 10,000 feet in the primary search area on the fifth full day of searching for a missing light plane with a Minnesota family on board.


“We tried to extract the teams by helicopter, but the weather closed in and they had to spend the night,” said Incident Command Operations Chief Jason Aanestad. “Our plan this morning is to insert a fresh ground team and bring out the other two teams for a debrief.”


As day six of active searching begins, no physical evidence of the missing aircraft has been found. At the Incident Command center Sunday morning at Lander’s Hunt Field Airport, fresh snow was visible on the peaks of the Wind River Range.


Saturday night one ground team was successfully extracted and they reported that they were nearly “socked in” with “blizzard like conditions” at the landing zone. The extraction was performed by a Wyoming National Army Guard Blackhawk helicopter, that replace a U.S. Air Force Huey earlier in the day.


The weather cleared overnight and today searchers are looking at mostly cloudy sky conditions with daytime temperatures in the high 20’s. The weather, however, is expected to close in again late Sunday afternoon.


“Our plan today is to continue a grid search by helicopter and our ground teams as we look for clues to the missing aircraft,” Anestad said.


The aircraft, a 1977 Mooney model 20-J, disappeared from radar about one hour after taking off from the Jackson Hole airport in a snowstorm, bound for Riverton en route to the Twin Cities. The plane contained four members of a Minneapolis-area family.

Searchers were buoyed Saturday when messages of prayers and support directed at the search team and their families were received. The messages came from friends and colleagues of the missing family members. “I wish we could go out again right now,” said ground searcher Andy Basset after reading the bundles of hand written notes. Basset and three other ground team members had just been plucked from a blizzard and returned to the Incident Command Center.



Photos attached:

#1 – A ground team returns to Lander’s Hunt Field Airport and the Incident Command center Saturday evening for a debrief after being plucked from a blizzard-like conditions in the primary search area for a missing light plane in the Wind River Range of NW Wyoming.


#2 – Wyoming National Army Guard pilots CW3 Derek Fisbeck and CW5 Doug Drost review maps and plans for Sunday’s search effort with Operations Chief Jason Aanestad. In the background is Wyoming Department of Homeland Security representative Jim Frank.


#3 – Incident Command Operations Chief Jason Aanestad demonstrates operation of a ground emergency location transmission receiver to ground search members, from left, Jared Wheeler, Tobis Eddy and Jason Gephardt.


#4 – Search helicopters, clockwise from top left, include an A-Star 350 B3, A Wyoming Army National Guard UH 60 Blackhawk and a Bell L-4. The helicopters are using Lander’s Hunt Field general aviation airport as their base for search operations.

UPDATE: Search for missing aircraft at 9:00 A.M. M.S.T.


(Lander, WY) – With favorable weather early today, the fifth full day of searching for a missing single-engine plane with four members of a Minnesota family on board began at daylight in northwest Wyoming. In the four previous full days of searching, no physical evidence of the craft has been found, although teams are still attempting to track an emergency locator signal, which has been heard in the area.


A group of mountaineers from the Sublette County Search and Rescue Team from Pinedale, WY, joined the search this morning and is one of three ground search teams, joining two existing teams from Lander. The ground searchers are being airlifted into the search area by a U.S. Air Force Huey helicopter from Cheyenne, WY.


In addition to the three helicopters, one fixed wing craft from the Wyoming Civil Air Patrol is expected to join the search and overfly the area at mid-morning in another attempt to pinpoint the location of an elusive emergency transponder signal that was detected several days ago.


“We are searching some areas today that were previously searched because strong winds have rearranged some surface features in the past two days,” said Chip Williams, Incident Commander. “We are also sending up digital video equipment in one of the helicopters so we can analyze the video for clues to the plane’s disappearance.”


The search area is at an elevation of between 11,000 and 12,000 feet and east of Wyoming’s highest mountain, which is at an elevation of 13,802 feet. The landscape in the search area includes deep drainages, heavy timber and boulder fields, steep and crevassed canyon walls with numerous rock outcroppings and rock towers. Much of the search area is still covered in snow. c


Weather conditions today are forecast to be favorable through late afternoon when isolated snow showers and thunderstorms are forecast. Temperatures in the search area today are forecast to reach a high of between 32 an 35°F.




Cutline info: #1

One ground search team receives final instructions Saturday morning from Operations Chief Jason Aanestad. Pictured, from left, are: Daren Opeka, Asnestad, Matt McGee, Jake Freed, and Chris Brauneis.


Cutline info: #2

Incident Command Operations Chief Jason Aanestad and ground search team leader Matt McGee review a satellite image of a portion of the search area during Saturday morning’s briefing.




UPDATE: Search for missing aircraft at 3:30 P.M. M.S.T.


(Lander, WY) – There were no new developments today in the search for a single-engine aircraft missing in Northwest Wyoming’s Fitzpatrick Wilderness Area since Monday. Searchers received a break Friday morning when weather moderated allowing additional aerial reconnaissance of a nine-square-mile search area. However the exact location of an emergency transponder signal presumably from the missing aircraft remained elusive.


“We also had three teams of ground searchers using hand-held signal detection finders in the field, but the source of the transponder signal has not yet been pinpointed,” said Detective Sergeant Ryan Lee of the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department. “The search area is in extremely remote and rugged country and the progress of the ground teams has been limited by the terrain. The task of finding the location of the transponder is also made more difficult because of the shadow effect of the signal, bouncing off of boulders, cliffs, outcroppings and canyon walls.”


The area being searched includes the location where the aircraft dropped off radar screens plus the ridges and drainages east of that point, in the direction the plane was heading. Searchers are working in an area between 11,000 and 12,000 feet in elevation. The terrain includes heavy timber and boulder fields along the drainages, very steep canyon walls and windblown ridge tops laced with side canyons and crevasses.


Incident Commander Chip Williams said the aerial reconnaissance involves retracing flight search patterns at different times of the day, allowing spotters to see the terrain below in different light conditions as shadows move and previously shadowed areas become visible.


The attached photo was taken from the cabin of one of the search helicopters Thursday afternoon and it illustrates the varied and difficult terrain of the search area.


CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) – Fremont County Search and Rescue teams looking for a small plane in the mountains of Fremont County say they have detected a signal they believe is coming from an emergency locater on the plane.

     They haven’t yet pinpointed where the signal is coming from, but have it pinpointed just east of Gannet Peak to a 9 square mile area.  Ground teams today are using hand held devises to try and narrow down where the signal is coming from. 

     The plane disappeared Monday over the Wind River Range. It was

carrying 41-year-old Luke Bucklin of Minneapolis and three of his

children.

     Authorities say a search plane equipped with sensitive detection

equipment confirmed a weak signal in the area on Thursday.

Officials believe the signal was from the missing plane’s locater

beacon.

     Search commander Chip Williams says the emergency signal could

be bouncing off rocks and cliffs in the mountainous area.

UPDATE: Search for missing aircraft at 9:00 A.M. M.S.T.


(Lander, WY) – The search for a single-engine fixed wing aircraft missing over the Wind River Mountains of northwest Wyoming with four members of a Minnesota family on board resumed at first light Friday morning.


Air and ground search crews are concentrating on a nine-square mile area east of Wyoming’s tallest mountain peak, the last known location of the aircraft, which disappeared Monday on a flight from Jackson Hole to Riverton en route to the Twin Cities.


With a new weather front moving in, search resources today will include aerial searching with three helicopters including an Air Force Huey based at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, and three ground crews, said Jason Aanestad, the Incident Command Center’s Operations Chief.


On Thursday a specially equipped fixed wing aircraft flew over the search area numerous times in an attempt to pinpoint a possible Emergency Transponder signal (ELT). The plane, from Park County, WY, Search and Rescue, was able to confirm a weak signal, but it was unable to pinpoint the exact location of the transmission.


“This is a very mountainous area and signals such as those from an emergency transponder bounce off of rocks, cliffs and peaks, making detection difficult,” said Incident Commander Chip Williams. He said ground crews would be inserted into the area with hand held devices in an attempt to pinpoint the source of the transmissions.


“A weak but steady ELT signal has been monitored coming from the general search area, but we have been unable to locate the exact location of the transmission, and that is the focus of today’s search,” said Detective Sergeant Ryan Lee of the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department.


“An ELT transponder of the kind in the missing aircraft may be activated manually, or automatically 

in a manner similar to the deployment of an air bag in a sudden impact,” Lee said. “Search crews had been picking up an unknown transmission, and yesterday we were able to confirm that those transmissions are coming from the search area. We have reason to believe the signal confirmed yesterday is, in all probability, coming from the downed aircraft. There are no other missing aircraft reported in the area.”


UPDATE: Search for missing aircraft at 5:00 PM M.S.T.


(Lander, WY) – The search for a missing light plane in the Wind River Range of Western Wyoming continued for a fourth consecutive day Thursday with additional air and ground units added to the search.


With weather conditions more favorable Thursday morning, the Incident Command center moved to Lander’s Hunt Field Airport to more closely coordinate the air search, which Thursday included three helicopters, including a U.S. Air Force Huey, and a fixed-wing A-1B. The Wyoming Wing of the Civil Air Patrol provided additional support Thursday afternoon. Three ground search crews are also working the scene, one which spent Wednesday night in the mountains, one which was inserted this morning and a third crew which was dropped into a portion of the search area this afternoon. The three crews include nine personnel, eight men and one woman, all experienced mountaineers.


“This is still a rescue mission at this point and we’re focusing on that,” said Incident Commander Chip Williams, who said extremely windy conditions this afternoon limited some air operations and prompted the insertion of a third ground team.


“The ground teams have struggled searching drainages containing deep heavy snow and boulders, so we’re taking two of the teams out tonight for rest and they’ll go back in Friday morning,” said Fremont County Sheriff’s Detective Sergeant Ryan Lee.


Search coordinators will meet after the final ground crew returns to base this evening and plan Friday’s search.


The photos attached to this release were taken by the first ground team which entered the search area Tuesday afternoon and they show the difficulty of searching the terrain.

(LANDER)    Teams of  Fremont County Search and Rescue continue to look for signs of a small plane carrying a Minneapolis man and three of his children.

     The search for the single-engine plane resumed this morning (Thursday) in the rugged Wind River Range near Gannet Peak.

     A single-engine plane carrying 41-year-old Luke Bucklin,

14-year-old twins Nate and Nick and 12-year-old Noah disappeared

from radar Monday about an hour after taking off from Jackson in a

snowstorm.

     Helicopters failed to find any sign of them yesterday (Wednesday).

Complicating efforts is a fresh layer of blindingly white snow and

the fact that the missing plane is also white.

     Searchers are now using a plane with highly sensitive

detection equipment to try pick up any automated emergency

transmissions from the plane.

     Two ground teams that were ferried to a location just outside of the wilderness boundary by helicopter on Tuesday, searched the area until after dark last night, and resumed the search before first light this morning.

     A statement from the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office said that the remoteness of the site is providing a challenge for communications as search helicopters and ground crews working in the drainages east of Wyoming’s highest peak must relay information via satellite telephones or from aircraft flying above the ridge lines.


Meanwhile…


     The family of the Minneapolis businessman who is missing along with his three sons is expressing thanks for prayers while the search continues.

     The family issued a statement yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon expressing thanks for the support they had received while waiting for word of the outcome of the search.


UPDATE: Search for missing aircraft at 8:00 AM

 (Lander, WY) – A four-member search team inserted into the rugged Fitzpatrick Wilderness Area of Northwest Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest on Tuesday afternoon worked until after dark and began before first light Thursday. The team, and a second ground team that headed for the nine-square mile search area east of Gannett Peak early this morning, is searching for clues to the disappearance of a single-engine fixed-wind aircraft missing since Monday. Four members of a Minnesota family are believed to be on board.


“Our ground teams will be looking for clues and our air teams will be looking for the aircraft,” said Incident Commander Chip Williams at a 7:00 a.m. briefing. “This is a huge search area and we will be acting on intelligence as the days goes on. We’re going to hit this hard again today.”


Several helicopters crisscrossed the search area on multiple sorties Wednesday. A fast moving winter storm front that hit the area with up to 15 inches of snow Tuesday night made observation from the air difficult as search teams reported the ground cover was very bright with fresh white snow. The missing aircraft is also white. Search crews are concentrating their efforts east of the last known location of the aircraft where the terrain ranges from 11,000 to 13,000 feet in elevation.


Weather over the search area today includes increasing high cloudiness, windy conditions and slightly warmer temperatures predicted to reach into the low to mid 30s.


Scheduled to join the search effort this morning is a fixed-wing aircraft from the Park County, WY, Search and Rescue Team. The aircraft is equipped with highly sensitive detection equipment that may aid in locating any automated emergency transmissions from the missing aircraft, which have not been detected to this point.


Due to the remoteness of the search area, an Incident Command Center has been established at the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department in Lander and a heli-base is in operation at Lander’s Hunt Field General Aviation airport.


The remoteness of the site is providing a challenge for communications as search helicopters and ground crews working in the drainages east of Wyoming’s highest peak must relay information via satellite telephones or from aircraft flying above the ridge lines.


Fremont County, Wyoming is nearly 10,000 square miles in size, larger than seven other states. The Continental Divide is the western boundary of the county and the search area is located in a high mountainous region that separates Jackson Hole from the Wind River Basin. The nearest road from the search area is over 20 miles away with only hiking and horseback trails providing access into the area. The ground search teams were ferried into a location just outside of the wilderness boundary by helicopter.


MISSING PLANE-WYOMING
     Family of missing Minn. pilot and family issue statement
    
     CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) – The family of a Minneapolis businessman
who is missing along with his three sons after their plane
disappeared from radar in western Wyoming is expressing thanks for
prayers while the search continues.
     The single-engine plane carrying 41-year-old Luke Bucklin and
his three boys left the Jackson airport Monday in a snowstorm. It
disappeared from radar an hour later over the craggy Wind River
Range.
     Teams of mountaineers are searching the rugged area for signs of
the plane.
     Bucklin and his sons were returning to Minneapolis after a visit
to Jackson when the plane disappeared. Bucklin’s family website
identifies the boys as 14-year-old twins Nate and Nick and
12-year-old Noah.
     The family issued a statement Wednesday afternoon expressing
thanks for the support they had received while waiting for word of
the outcome of the search.

Here is the official news release from the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office as of 5pm 10/27/2010:

UPDATE: Search for missing aircraft at 5:00 PM

 

(Lander, WY) – Ground and air search crews worked for a second day in the rugged Wind River Range of NW Wyoming looking for a missing aircraft which disappeared from radar Monday afternoon on a flight from Jackson Hole to Riverton.

 

A United States Air Force Huey rescue helicopter and a contracted A-Star helicopter flew multiple sorties over a nine square mile search area east of the Continental Divide and Wyoming’s highest mountain peak. On the ground, a four-member team of experienced mountaineers that entered the area Tuesday night searched drainages and was joined by a second ground team late Wednesday.

 

“There is nothing new that we can report this afternoon,” said Detective Sergeant Ryan Lee of the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department. “The important thing is that we have ground crews working and helicopters overflying the area. We are putting as many resources into this search as possible.”

 

Weather conditions improved dramatically Wednesday, with unlimited visibility and warmer weather. Overnight lows Wednesday night are forecast in the mid-teens. The ground search team reported that they were traversing deep snowfields en route to the primary search area.

 

The missing aircraft, a 1977 Mooney Model M20J, reportedly carried four residents of the Minneapolis area. The Fremont County Sheriff’s Department policy is not to release identities of the passengers while the rescue mission is underway.

 

Search operations continue this afternoon through sunset this evening and will commence at first light on Thursday morning.

 

Editors Note: Attached are three photographs taken from one of the search helicopters early this afternoon as they flew over a portion the primary search area. The photographs were taken east of Gannett Peak, Wyoming’s highest at 13,802’.





(Lander, WY) –  A United States Air Force Huey helicopter with four crew members on board conducted an extensive air search Wednesday morning for a missing aircraft in the Wind River Range of NW Wyoming.


The missing aircraft filed a flight plan indicating a route from Jackson Hole, WY to Riverton, WY en route to Pierre, SD and ultimately to Minneapolis-St. Paul. The search is underway in an area where radar contact was lost with the aircraft on Monday at 12:37 p.m.  The search area is in one of the most remote areas of the lower 48 states, and at least 20 miles from the nearest highway.


The Air Force helicopter returned to Lander, WY at noon to refuel and debrief, and resumed its aerial reconnaissance mission early this afternoon.


The search area is concentrated in a nine square mile area east of Gannet Peak, Wyoming’s highest mountain. The search area is within the Fitzpatrick Wilderness Area of the Shoshone National Forest. A second ground search party of four experienced mountaineers was organized early Wednesday. The second ground searchers join a team of four other mountaineers who were dispatched to the scene late Tuesday and began hiking toward the search area Wednesday morning. The ground searchers are working their way toward the aircraft’s last known position and were hiking in an area between 11,000 and 12,000 feet in elevation. Ground searchers reported fresh and deep snow along their route.


A winter storm moved through the area Tuesday night, depositing between 4 and 15 inches of snow. The weather over the search area has improved and skies are clear, but high winds gusting to 30 mph still persist in the area. Low temperatures plunged below zero in the search area Tuesday night, but are forecast to be in the mid-teens Wednesday night.


The missing aircraft, a 1977 Mooney Model M20J, reportedly carried four residents of the Minneapolis area. The Fremont County Sheriff’s Department policy is not to release identities of the passengers while the rescue mission is underway.

To illustrate the difficult terrain searchers are combing, the Sheriff’s Department released file photos of the general search area. The photos show steep canyons, sharp peaks and rough terrain. The photos were taken during summer months and do not depict current conditions.


Authorities reported that as of 14:00 hrs Wednesday, no emergency locator transmissions have been picked up, either by local search teams or satellite, and there has been no contact with the missing aircraft.


Over two dozen search and rescue, sheriffs department and other federal and state agency personnel are involved in the effort.

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