By Mark Gomez and Mark Emmons Mercury News Hat tip; Ernie Coffman
Family and friends of a San Jose pilot whose plane went missing the Sunday after Thanksgiving continued their efforts Tuesday to find him and four family members even as officials have scaled back search efforts.
A Valley County Sheriff's Office official in the remote Idaho backcountry on Tuesday acknowledged that authorities have all but officially ended search efforts, which lasted more than a week and included as many as nine aircraft from multiple agencies looking for the missing single-engine Beech Bonanza.
Onboard are pilot Dale Smith, his son Daniel Smith and his wife Sheree Smith, and his daughter Amber Smith and her fiancé Jonathan Norton.
Alan Dayton, of Salt Lake City, whose nephew is Jonathan Norton, told the Salt Lake Tribune that Norton family members have "done everything we can think of doing," and "decided it is time to pull up stakes and go home," with hopes of finding the plane next summer.
"We will, eventually, find them," Dayton added. "Until then, we will always have our memories of them. Nothing changes that."
Still, a small team of Smith friends and family continue to look for the aircraft that went missing Dec. 1 after Dale Smith reported engine trouble.
"The Smith family has not given up," Nadine Bird, a Smith family friend in San Jose, told the Tribune. San Jose native David Christensen, who now lives in Utah, echoed that, saying that other friends and family have not stopped searching.
"Right now they're still at it," said Christensen, whose son Michael is married to Dale Smith's oldest daughter Crystal, who was not on the plane. "They're continuing to search, but it's just with private resources."
Rand Kriech, Dale Smith's business partner at San Jose-based data-storage company SerialTek, noted that the private helicopter has been donated for the continuing search.
"We have some private assets and they're going to continue to search as the weather permits," Kriech said. "There's also some volunteer planes as well. The public search effort has been curtailed. I know there's concern about public safety, and we understand that issue because it's certainly treacherous up there and you have bad weather now."
Operations Lt. Dan Smith of the Valley County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday that much of the terrain is dangerous and remote and there is concern that volunteers involved in the ongoing search could get lost or injured.
"We're really to the point, we don't know where else to look," he said. "The biggest thing is we have no information about which direction he went and how far he made it."
"We gave it everything we had for a solid week," he said. "There was nothing more we could do."
The traveling group had been in Baker City, Ore., where Dale Smith's father lives, celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. The five were traveling in the six-seat plane to Butte, Mont., to drop off Daniel and Sheree Smith.
Bird and other friends have set up a website --https://sites.google.com/site/searchfordalesplane/how-to-help/search-volunteer-information -- to help in the search for the plane as the search largely shifted to a review of satellite images of the remote region.
Salt Lake Tribune reporter Bob Mims contributed to this report.