Four men apparently died of exposure when their Beechcraft Bonanza plane crashed into the Great Salt Lake north of Promontory Point Wednesday afternoon shortly after leaving the Ogden airport.
The four men were in Utah to attend a relative's funeral, a Box Elder dispatcher said.The Box Elder County sheriff's office said the victims were Vern Huss, 67, of Fair Oaks, Calif., and his son, Randy, 34, of Chico Way, Calif.; Vern's brother, Mack Huss, 58, Fair Oaks, Calif., and his son, Brad, 32, Durham, Calif.
The plane took off from the Ogden City Airport at 12:19 p.m., according to airport officials. About 12:45 p.m., the plane's pilot radioed the Salt Lake International Airport that he was in trouble. He told an air traffic controller that ice was forming on his wings. He said he planned to turn around and fly back to the Ogden airport.
At 12:46 p.m., the plane disappeared from the Salt Lake radar screen, according to the FAA's Regional Operations Center in Renton, Wash.
Although autopsy reports have not yet been released, early reports suggest the men got out of the plane safely and died of exposure in the icy water.
"The bodies were all intact," said AirMed pilot Shannon Hall. Hall located the four bodies on the lake. There was no floating debris to suggest the plane broke up when it hit the lake, he said.
"The pilot probably did a good job of ditching the aircraft and they all got off alive. The water is 30 feet deep out there. The plane probably sank immediately."
If the men had been killed by the impact and trapped in an intact plane, they would have sunk with it, he said.
Two Civil Air Patrol planes and three helicopters - Airmed, Lifeflight and the Utah Highway Patrol helicopter - assisted in the search for the downed plane.
An air patrol plane flying 1,000 feet above the lake spotted something orange in the water at 2 p.m., said Capt. Jerry Wellman, Civil Air Patrol spokesman.
The air patrol asked Hall to fly his helicopter in for a closer look. He reached the area a few minutes later. Hovering 100 feet above the lake, he located the four bodies.
"We discovered two really closetogether - probably within 100 feet of each other. The third was discovered 200 yards south of the first two, and we found the fourth about 600 yards north of the first two. All four bodies were in a straight line," he said.
Searchers found the four men 11/2 hours after their plane crashed into the lake.
All appeared dead when Hall discovered them. "There was no movement at all. Water was lapping over their faces," he said.
The wind was blowing about 12 miles an hour out of the northwest, and he was told lake temperature was about 34 degrees, Hall said.
Shrimp boats commandeered by the sheriff's department reached the bodies about 3 p.m.