Continuous News

Jun 30, 2010 3:56 PM by Breanna Roy, Beth Saboe, Andrea Lutz

Missing plane search still focused near Moiese

MOIESE - Crews are still searching for a single engine airplane that has been missing since Sunday afternoon.

Public Information Officer Carey Cooley with the Lake County Office of Emergency Management says that 10 aircraft have taken to the skies over northwestern Montana, including a pair of helicopters, in hopes of spotting the missing aircraft.

There are also several crews traveling in ATVs and on foot scouring an area that's focused on the Flathead River west of Moiese. Search boats once again on the water, including a Flathead County boat using sonar.

Cooley told us that their goal is still to find the aircraft and that authorities are still receiving tips and information from people who have reported seeing a plane in the area on Sunday.

Writers Melissa Weaver and Erika Hoefer of the Daily Inter Lake newspaper in Kalispell left in a blue and white single-engine plane from the Kalispell airport Sunday at around 1:30 with pilot Sonny Kless and Brian Williams of Missoula on board.


DIXON - Authorities have once again started up their search for a plane that has been missing since Sunday afternoon.

Crews have been combing an area near the Lake County-Sanders County line in hopes of finding the single engine aircraft, which had four people on board, when it disappeared.

The search shifted on Tuesday to an area of the Flathead River near Dixon in Sanders County as crews put several boats on the water.

There's been no sign of Kalispell newspaper writers Melissa Weaver and Erika Hoefer, who left Kalsipell in a blue and white single-engine plane from the Kalispell City Airport on Sunday around 1:30 p.m., with Sonny Kless of Missoula and his friend Brian Williams, also of Missoula on board the aircraft.

Several witnesses have come forward to tell authorities that they saw the blue and white plane flying very low over the Flathead River on Sunday.

The photos of Weaver and Hoefer are courtesy of the Daily Inter Lake.

Melissa Weaver, courtesy Daily Interlake

Erika Hoefer, courtesy Daily Interlake

Sonny Kless

Watch a recap of Tuesday's rescue efforts below.


(from Nune 29, 2010)

DIXON - An extensive search for a missing plane carrying four people for the last two days has turned up empty. But authorities say they're not giving up hope and will resume their search on Wednesday.

Writers Melissa Weaver and Erika Hoefer of the Daily Inter Lake newspaper in Kalispell left in a blue and white single-engine plane from the Kalispell airport Sunday around 1:30 with Sonny Kless of Missoula and his friend Brian Williams, also of Missoula

The four left for a scenic flight to Glacier National Park. But contact with the plane was lost Sunday near the National Bison Range.

Search crews focused their efforts around Dixon and several miles upstream where the Flathead River meets the Clark Fork River on Tuesday.

Several witnesses say they saw the blue and white plane flying very low over the Flathead River on Sunday.


The search for a missing Montana plane with four people on-board has now shifted to the Dixon area along the Flathead River after several witnesses say they saw the blue and white plane flying very low over the Flathead River on Sunday.

Those reports prompted officials to focus on the water Tuesday, with searchers patrolling the river and shores near Moiese and Dixon. There were at least five boats equipped with sonar going up and down the Flathead River looking for any possible sign of the plane.

A spokeswoman with the Lake County Sheriff's Office says several people reported seeing the aircraft flying just 20 to 30 feet above the river, which is running high right now due to spring run-off.

"The witness reports are pretty consistent saying they have seen an aircraft Sunday evening fitting the description of the one that's missing flying low over the river," explained Carey Cooley with the Lake County Office of Emergency Management.

Authorities suspended the search at dark on Tuesday due to threatening thunderstorms in the area, but vowed to resume the effort at daybreak Wednesday.

Cooley also told Montana's News Station they had more than 100 people searching by plane, boats, ATV, horseback and walking. She says they have more than 100 miles of roads to search.

The Lake County Sheriff's Department has set up a command post at the National Bison Range and is one of several agencies involved in the effort.

Earlier on Tuesday, a group of private pilots took to the air in the Mission Valley to continue the search for a missing aircraft.

While the majority of the over half-dozen planes spent the morning concentrating on an area between the National Bison Range and Evaro, we're told that another plane is also scouring the Mission Mountains in hopes of finding the aircraft.

Authorities resumed their search for the single engine plane at around 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. Debbie Alke with the State Aeronautic Division says that crews put a halt to their efforts on Monday night due to the darkness, but hopes that today's forecast of clear skies will help them.

Lake County Sheriff Lucky Larson says the search is concentrated in the area of the National Bison Range in Moiese, possibly in Sanders County.

The missing plane was carrying two Kalispell newspaper staff writers and two men from Missoula.
The Daily Inter Lake confirmed to Montana's News Station two of their reporters, 23-year old Melissa Weaver and Erika Hoefer, 27, are on the missing plane, along with two men from Missoula.

The single engine airplane took off from Kalispell City Airport Sunday afternoon just after 1:30 p.m. It was rented by Sonny Kless of Missoula from North Star Aviation, and officials say the plane has not returned to the Missoula airport.

The two were expected to be at a barbecue Sunday night but never showed up and when Weaver's roommate could not reach her on her cell phone, she called the Flathead Sheriff's Department.

The pilot last made radio contact with the Glacier Park Airport tower on Sunday afternoon reporting that he was east of Kalispell traveling south to north.

Weaver is a University of Montana graduate from Billings while Hoefer is from Beloit, Wisconsin and began work at the paper in December 2009. The second Missoula man has not been identified.

Officials are not calling the incident a crash at this point.


(from June 28, 2010)

NEAR MOIESE - St. Ignatius Airport officials tell Montana's News Station a missing plane's emergency beacon is going off somewhere between the National Bison Range and Evaro.

Lake County Sheriff Lucky Larson also tells us that the search is now being concentrated in the area of the National Bison Range in Moiese, possibly in Sanders County.

Flathead County authorities are no longer in charge of the search efforts, as Lake and Sanders County are now handling the investigation.

The missing plane that was carrying two Kalispell newspaper staff writers and two men from Missoula.

The Daily Inter Lake confirmed to Montana's News Station that in fact two of their reporters, 23-year old Melissa Weaver and 27-year old Erika Hoefer, are on the missing plane along with two men from Missoula.

The single engine airplane took off from Kalispell City Airport Sunday afternoon just after 1:30 p.m. It was rented by Sonny Kless of Missoula from North Star Aviation, and officials say the plane has not returned to the Missoula airport.

Flathead County Sheriff Mike Meehan says search crews are looking along the Flathead-Lake county line. Officials are not calling the incident a crash yet at this point.

The two were expected to be at a barbecue Sunday night but never showed up. Weaver's roommate could not reach her on her cell phone prompting her to call the Flathead Sheriff's Department.

Several agencies including Montana Civil Air Patrol, US Customs Service helicopter that was at the Western Governor's Conference, Glacier National Park officials as well as the Montana Aeronautics Division are searching for the plane.

The pilot last made radio contact with the Glacier Park Airport tower Sunday afternoon reporting he was east of Kalispell traveling south to north. The group was reportedly on a scenic flight.

The second Missoula man has not been identified. The pilot is from Missoula.

Weaver is a University of Montana graduate from Billings while Hoefer is from Beloit, Wisconsin and began work at the paper in December 2009.

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