(Reuters) - Rescuers were searching a rugged and snow-covered swath of central Idaho for a single-engine airplane carrying five people, authorities said on Tuesday, two days after the pilot complained of engine trouble and then lost contact with air traffic controllers.
The pilot of the missing 1980s-model Beechcraft Bonanza plane was identified as Dale Smith, co-founder and chief executive of the San Jose-based data storage firm SerialTek, by fellow company co-founder Rand Kriech.
Smith had been flying his two adult children and their spouses home after spending the Thanksgiving holiday together in Oregon, Kriech said.
Smith took off from Baker City, Oregon on Sunday morning to fly his son and daughter-in-law, identified by Kriech as Daniel and Sheree Smith, to their home in Butte, Montana.
Also on the plane were Smith’s daughter, Amber Smith and her fiancé, Jonathan Norton, Kriech said.
The search for the missing plane focused on a remote, mountainous area about 120 miles northeast of Boise, which rescuers identified by tracking cell phone signals of those aboard as well as an emergency locator signal from the airplane that was picked up on Tuesday morning, said Valley County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Rob Feeley.
About 40 rescuers, along with two helicopters and two airplanes supplied by multiple agencies, were assisting in the search for the plane, Feeley said.
The effort has been hampered by the inhospitable terrain and inclement weather, Feeley said, but a break in the weather on Tuesday had authorities hopeful.
Kriech described Smith as a devout Mormon, top-notch engineer and humanitarian who would ferry needy people in his plane to get medical treatment in Mexico, and who flew to the Gulf Coast to offer help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“We’re not going to give up hope until we find them,” he said.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and David Gregorio