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Mon, Feb 11, 2008

Search Crews Locate Missing C340, No Sign Of Survivors

Plane Disappeared Into Clouds Last Wednesday

Crews searching for a missing Cessna twin that disappeared last week near Banning Pass in southern California came across the wreckage Saturday, but found no sign any of the four persons onboard the plane survived the impact.

The Palm Springs Desert Sun reports the Cessna 340 (file photo of type, right), tail number N354TJ, disappeared Wednesday afternoon, shortly after taking off from Bermuda Dunes Airport (UUD) near Palm Springs, bound for Chino.

The last radar contact from the aircraft came at 1339 PST Wednesday, about nine minutes after the plane left Bermuda Dunes. "The last radar reading puts them in the San Gorgonio Pass," said Chino police Lt. Al Cheatham. "They were also seen by occupants of another plane going into a bank of clouds."

The aircraft was reported missing by family members Wednesday night. On Saturday, crews onboard eight fixed-wing aircraft scoured an area on the north side of San Gorgonio Pass. A helicopter crew located the wreckage late Saturday afternoon, and was able to verify the tail number, said Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department... but weather precluded a closer investigation.

"We are concerned because the storm came in that night and Sunday," Cheatham said. "Snow was already reported 10 to 12 feet deep in some places above 7,000 feet elevation, and the storm dumped more snow." Crews hoped to be airlifted to the accident site Sunday.

The wreckage was found about 1.5 miles from where the plane was seen entering the cloud bank, said Civil Air Patrol Capt. Andrea Binder, and about one mile north of the I-10 freeway. There is no immediate evidence of an IFR flight plan filed for the plane's tail number.

Family identified those onboard the missing plane as Michael Bybyk, 75; Joyce Bybyk, 70; Alvin Baker, 79; and Gail Pugel, 68. The aircraft was owned by the Bybyks.



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