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Aircraft Enroute To Glacier National Park Disappears

Four On Board The Aircraft Including Two Journalists

An airplane on a sightseeing trip to Glacier National Park has apparently gone down and is missing, with no word on the four people on board.


File Photo

Sonny Kless of Missoula reportedly rented the Piper PA-28R for the trip at Kalispell City Airport Sunday afternoon. Two reporters for the Daily Inter Lake newspaper ... Melissa Weaver and Erika Hoefer ... were also reportedly on board the plane. A second man, who has not been named but who was reportedly also from Missoula, was aboard as well.

Authorities were notified that the plane was missing Monday morning when Weaver's roommate contacted the county sheriff because Weaver had not returned or contacted her.

The Associated Press reports that the newspaper's publisher said the two reporters were not working at the time the plane went missing. "They were on their day off and just having fun," said Rick Weaver, who is not related to Melissa Weaver.

Hoefer updated her Facebook page from the airplane shortly after takeoff. "We're flying to the park and we're later going to a barbecue," the message said. A spokeswoman for the park said there was no indication that the airplane ever entered the park's airspace. The last radio contact from Kless was with the tower at Glacier Park International Airport about 1411 local time. He reported that the plane was east of Kalispell, traveling north about 40 minutes after takeoff.

There was also a report of a text message between Weaver's and Hoefer's phones about an hour after the plane's last contact. Authorities are working to retrieve that message.

The airplane is equipped with an ELT, but authorities said it is "an old one," and Flathead County Sheriff Mike Meehan said "you'd have to fly almost directly over it to make contact."

The search area has been expanded to include Lake and Sanders counties in Montana. Officials are also analyzing radar and cell tower data in an effort to locate the plane and its occupants. The CAP and CBP are also assisting in the SAR effort.

FMI: http://flathead.mt.gov/sheriff

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