Cell phones and weather may help find missing private plane

Posted at 10:42 AM, Dec 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-03 12:43:07-05

By Toby Lyles and Tom Watkins

(CNN) — Searchers looking for the plane that was carrying a software company president and members of his family when it disappeared from radar Sunday over Idaho were expecting help Tuesday from technology and the weather.

“We’ve done a ping on the cell phones and we’ve narrowed it down to a four- or five-square-mile area that we’re searching right now,” Valley County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Dan Smith told CNN affiliate KGO on Monday.

Dale Smith had left Baker City, Oregon, with his son, his son’s wife, his daughter and her fiance, said Rand Kriech, co-founder with Smith of SerialTek, a San Jose, California, company that develops hardware and software data storage tools

Smith’s wife and another daughter were in Cascade, Idaho, on Tuesday awaiting news about the search, Kriech said.

About 3 p.m. Sunday, as they were flying over central Idaho at an altitude of 9,000 feet aboard Smith’s single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza en route to Butte, Montana, the 51-year-old executive reported engine trouble and asked controllers in Salt Lake City for coordinates to Johnson Creek Air Strip, the sheriff’s spokesman said.

They never made it.

Snow hampered search efforts, carried out Monday by helicopters from the Idaho Army National Guard.

Tuesday’s search was expected to include Apache helicopters, Kriech said in a telephone interview. He said the weather, predicted to be “a lot clearer today,” would help.

“If there is anyone who is able to survive a difficult situation, that would be Dale,” San Jose Mormon Bishop Jed Dyreng told the affiliate about his fellow churchgoer. “When there was Hurricane Katrina, Dale was the first one to get in his plane, grab a bunch of members of his church and go out and help.”

“We are a little bit worried,” said the bishop’s wife, Ann Dyreng, who flew with Smith to Utah in October. “He’s an engineer brain, and he’s very meticulous about doing all that. He’s meticulous in all things he does.”

Smith co-founded SerialTek in 2007, serving as president and chief technologist. It employs 25 people, said Kriech, who described Smith as a religious man who had done humanitarian work with the group Doctors without Borders.

“He’s an engineer’s engineer,” Kriech said Tuesday. “If anyone can get out of this situation, it’s Dale. Hopefully, he laid the plane down safely. That’s what we are hoping and praying for this morning. He’s a good man, and we’re hoping to see him back here.”

CNN’s Chuck Johnston contributed to this report.

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