Visibility was very low and temperatures were low and very rough mountain terrain, dense with trees, so it's literally looking for a needle in a haystack. —Dave Norton
OGDEN — Law enforcement officials in Idaho have called off the search for a plane that went missing in the backcountry, but that’s not keeping a Utah family from holding out hope.
Dave and RoJean Norton plan to continue looking for their grandson, Jonathan Norton, and his fiancée, Amber Smith, who were among the five people on board a single-engine plane.
Searchers were combing the area near Yellow Pine, Idaho, ever since the pilot reported to a Salt Lake City tower that he was having engine trouble and needed directions to the Johnson Creek landing strip on Dec. 1. They were traveling from Baker City, Ore., to Butte, Mont.
The Nortons have been in the Cascade area for the past couple of weeks helping to search for the small airplane. On Saturday, Valley County sheriff's officials called off the search "due to weather conditions and no new leads."
A private firm plans to continue the search for the plane. And while the Nortons hope the aircraft can still be found, they're also being realistic.
"There is no evidence that there was survival that would lead one to have hope that maybe they're hiding someplace," Dave Norton said.
As a mechanical engineer, Norton knows logistics of the plane's navigational track in the rugged desolate area. He said he had an idea of what challenges the pilot faced when the plane dropped off the radar in Idaho's backcountry.
"Visibility was very low and temperatures were low and very rough mountain terrain, dense with trees," he said, "so it's literally looking for a needle in a haystack."
Over the past several years, the Nortons said Jonathan spent school breaks and holidays at their Ogden home while his parents remained in Wisconsin.
"Family is what it's about," Dave Norton said.
Jonathan Norton and Smith were planning to be married Jan. 4. Dave and RoJean Norton said the couple were seniors at BYU-Idaho, studying accounting, and were planning to begin their lives as a married couple in Oakland, Calif.
Smith's father, 51-year-old California software executive Dale Smith, was the pilot of the plane. His son, Daniel Smith, and his son’s wife, Sheree, were also on board.