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Idaho Plane Crash Recovery Update: All 5 Bodies Recovered

January 15, 2014

BOISE, Idaho — The bodies of all five victims of a December plane crash have been recovered from the mountains of central Idaho.

Valley County Coroner Nathan Hess tells the Idaho Statesman that the last of the victims was recovered Wednesday afternoon.

The wreckage from the Dec. 1 crash was located Friday by Dellon Smith, the brother of 51-year-old pilot and software executive Dale Smith of San Jose, Calif.

Crews worked Tuesday and Wednesday to recover the bodies.

Sheriff's Lt. Dan Smith says the plane hit about eight trees, broke apart and caught fire.

Officials say Dale Smith was flying from Oregon to Montana with his son Daniel Smith and Daniel's wife, Sheree, of Butte, Mont.; along with Dale Smith's daughter Amber Smith and her fiance, Jonathan Norton. Amber Smith and Norton were students at BYU-Idaho.

The plane was flying from eastern Oregon, where the family had been spending the Thanksgiving holiday, to Montana, where Daniel and Sheree Smith live, when it disappeared Dec. 1 in the mountains 150 miles northeast of Boise.

Dellon Smith, 38, a cargo pilot based in Anchorage, Alaska, and one of three brothers, found the crash site at about 2 p.m. Friday. A large, tracked vehicle carried the search team into the backcountry, where they spread out. He said he tried to take in the scene to determine how the crash might have happened, adding it appeared to have been a violent impact.

"It was very sudden," he said. "Since they were in the clouds, they probably didn't know what hit them. Probably a couple seconds and it was over. There was no pain and suffering for our family members, and for that we're very grateful."

(MORE: January Thaw Follows Arctic Deep Freeze)

Officials suspended the official search for the aircraft in mid-December, but an intensive hunt by family, friends and a large online community scouring satellite and other photos helped locate the badly damaged aircraft Friday. At one point, hundreds of online volunteers were pitching in.

"Every single one of them made a difference," Dellon Smith said.

Dale Smith had reported engine trouble and radioed for coordinates to possible landing sites, including a grass-covered backcountry landing strip. Shortly after, controllers lost radio and radar contact.

Janis Smith said it appeared the plane crashed moments after the last communication. She said the plane had caught fire. Dellon Smith said he thinks his brother was trying to make it to an airport in McCall.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, Smith, an executive and co-founder of San Jose-based SerialTek, obtained his pilot's license in 2005.

"My brother was a very good pilot and a very good man and a great leader of his family," Dellon Smith said.

MORE: Thousands Without Water After W. Va. Chemical Spill

Al Jones of the West Virginia department of General Services tests the water as he flushes the faucet and opens a rest room on the first floor of the State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va., Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)


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