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BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Teams on the ground and in aircraft hunted for a fifth day for a private plane that disappeared Sunday in the mountains of central Idaho, enlisting a radar analysis team to narrow their search as they race against time and frigid temperatures in hopes of finding survivors.

Eight aircraft, and 35 people on foot, snowmobiles and ATVs searched Idaho's vast backcountry Thursday for the single-engine Beech Bonanza piloted by Dale Smith, a 51-year-old software executive from San Jose, Calif.

Smith was traveling with four passengers from eastern Oregon to Butte, Mont., on Sunday when he reported engine trouble. Others on board included Smith's son, Daniel Smith, and his wife, Sheree, both of Butte, Mont.; and Dale Smith's daughter, Amber Smith, and her fiance, Jonathon Norton, who are students at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg.

Officials said Thursday that ground crews have been searching the backcountry near the remote town of Yellow Pine and are focusing on drainages east of the Johnson Creek landing strip near the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Temperatures reached just the upper teens during the day and have hovered near zero overnight; still, rescuers still have hopes of finding somebody alive.

"We've seen stories of humans withstanding incredible hardships and coming out the other end," said Robert Feeley, a spokesman for the Idaho Department of Homeland Security, from the search team's operations base in Cascade. "Anything beyond that would just be speculation."

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

It's already been a deadly season for small aircraft in Idaho's wilderness east of Cascade, the county seat of Valley County where rescue crews have been assembling each evening.

In early November, a backcountry pilot and two passengers flying into a wilderness hunting camp died when their plane went down in poor weather.

In this latest search for Smith and his party, the Civil Air Patrol's 10-member National Radar Analysis Team based in Alabama was able to detect and map the Beach Bonanza's radar track until just before the aircraft apparently began its descent Sunday.

Ground and air crews have used that information, as well as cellphone data from a phone aboard the plane, to narrow the area they're combing for signs of wreckage.

"The cellphone data stopped about a minute before the plane dropped off of radar," said Maj. Justin Ogden, a Civil Air Patrol cellphone forensics expert. "Our data correlated with the radar analysis team's regarding the plane's location at that time."

Even so, the hunt for Smith's plane has been fraught with difficulty.

On Tuesday, for instance, searchers thought they'd picked up an emergency beacon coming from the plane, however faint. A day later, however, they could no longer locate the signal. On the ground, crews have encountered steep hillsides, backcountry snow and miles of wilderness without roads.

Feeley said crews would break off the day's work around dark, hold a meeting to discuss strategy for Friday, and then rest for the night.

"The weather is holding for now," he said Thursday. "There's potential for some weather coming in tomorrow. That's going to be a factor in determining the scope of the search in coming days."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Search continues for small plane lost in Idaho mountains

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