SAN JOSE -- A brother's last-ditch search for San Jose pilot Dale Smith's plane in the rugged Idaho wilderness uncovered the aircraft on Friday and confirmed what many friends and relatives had feared was an inevitable outcome: Nobody survived the crash.
Idaho authorities backed family statements that the Beechcraft Bonanza was found, but provided little further information other than that weather conditions may delay recovery efforts.
However, Smith's wife, Janis, posted on a website dedicated to the hunt for the plane that it was a search spearheaded by Dellon Smith that ultimately uncovered the wreckage Friday.
She wrote that Dellon Smith and his crew "spent the entire day, from 3 a.m. onward trying to find the right location" based on tips from people looking at satellite images of the area on the plane search website.
"The snow was very deep and the going was very slow," she wrote. "Less than two hours before they needed to wrap up the search for the foreseeable future, (they) found the plane."
She said the plane is broken apart and buried in snow, and all the parts have not been found.
"However, we do know my family members on the plane died quickly and painlessly," she wrote. "They did not suffer."
Smith's plane went missing Dec. 1 after the Silicon Valley executive reported engine trouble while on a flight from Baker City, Ore., to Butte, Mont. An extensive search was conducted throughout the rugged central Idaho backcountry, but no signs of the plane, Smith or the passengers was found until Friday.
Others on the plane included Smith's son Daniel, 26, and his wife, Sheree, as well as daughter Amber, 20, and her fiance, Jonathan Norton, who were to be married last Saturday.
Jonathan's father, Brad Norton, said the plane was discovered in an area that was part of the official search.
"I understand how they can miss things," he said. "Things like this don't stick out too easily."
Norton called the finding "welcome news."
"I personally came to peace in terms of what had happened a number of weeks ago," he said. "And I feel a great sense of peace right now, knowing that they've been located and there wasn't suffering. That's always a lingering thought -- were they out there, waiting to be found? Was there something more that could have been done?"
Both Norton and Janis Smith expressed gratitude for all the volunteers who helped search for the plane.
"There are many, many stories of sacrifice, diligence and generosity throughout this unfortunate event," Janis Smith wrote. "Words cannot express the gratitude felt by the family and those close to them for the assistance and love offered."
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.