Family, friends as well as search-and-rescue volunteers are fighting the elements in their hunt for pilot Dale Smith and four members of his family, according to Lt. Dan Smith of the Valley County Sheriff's Office.
Dale Smith was piloting a single-engine Beech Bonanza that disappeared Dec. 1 after reporting engine trouble over a remote, rugged region. The search effort hampered by snow flurries and sub-freezing temperatures faces yet another challenge as a big winter storm is being forecast for later this week.
"We've probably covered 10 square miles from where the last contact came in," Dan Smith said. "Now we're expanding further. The area we're getting into is the wilderness. There's always that slim chance they made it and found a hunter's cabin.
"There's always that possibility, but it's real slim."
In addition to Dale Smith, a father of five who lives in South San Jose and cofounded the Silicon Valley data-storage firm SerialTek, the plane had four passengers: his son Daniel Smith and his wife Sheree Smith, as well as daughter Amber Smith and her fiancé Jonathan Norton.
Last week, the search effort included nine aircraft, including two helicopters from the Idaho Army National Guard with infrared capabilities. But on Friday, the aerial search was halted due to bad weather. Monday, authorities said aircraft would assist as weather permits.
Rand Kriech, who co-founded the high-tech company with Dale Smith, said a private helicopter has been added to the search. He added many friends and family from the Bay Area either have headed to Idaho or have offered to help look for the plane.
"But you have to be the right type of person in that environment," Kriech added. "This couldn't have happened in a worse place and a worse time of year."
Dan Smith described the terrain as vertical mountains as high as 9,000 feet with several canyons throughout. The forest serves as a canopy and reaching the area with a vehicle is almost impossible.
Authorities are trying to cover as much ground as possible ahead of a storm that is expected to drop a significant amount of snow.
"Once we get a large amount of snow, there won't be much we can do," Dan Smith said.
The extended family, Kriech said, continues to be hopeful.
"It's beyond me how well they've held together," he said.
The five people on board the plane had been celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday in Baker City, Ore., where Dale Smith's father lives. On Sunday, they were traveling in the six-seat plane, built in 1983, to drop off Daniel and Sheree Smith in Butte, Mont.
Dale Smith reported engine trouble and asked Salt Lake City air traffic controllers for coordinates to the Johnson Creek landing strip near the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area -- located about 100 miles east of Baker City.
Then the plane lost radar and cell tower contact.
"We just don't want to give up," Kriech said. "There are miracles happening every day, and we hope there's another one."