Steamboat Springs The Colorado Civil Air Patrol has narrowed its search for a small plane missing since early last week, but aerial and ground efforts Monday again came up empty.
On Monday, five Cessna-128 airplanes and three ground teams were used to search an area of Rio Blanco County that is 30 miles east of Meeker. The search for the plane and four Reno, Nev., men on board started at 6 a.m. and was suspended about 12 hours later.
"We are close," said Jim Alsum, a 32-year Civil Air Patrol veteran who is coordinating the search. "We just have not been able to find them. We have narrowed it down to a confined area. We feel confident that is where it is at."
Weather and rough terrain around the Marvine Ranch made it tough on the Civil Air Patrol's effort Monday.
"With the heavy clouds in the morning, we had to pull the aircraft out of the air for about an hour," Alsum said. "The area that we are searching also has a lot of black timber. It is thick, and it is hard to look into."
The search, which is being coordinated out of the Steamboat Springs Airport, started last Wednesday and is in its seventh day. The search will resume this morning with the help of an Army National Guard helicopter.
"A helicopter has worked well in the past," Alsum said. "But with the heavy timber we are going to have to go in on foot and hope we come across it."
The plane, a blue-and-white Cherokee-180, carried pilot Dan Filippe, Ross Jones and brothers Jon and Mark Peters. The men were flying the rented plane from their hometown of Reno, Nev., to Denver for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals.
The plane stopped at the airport in Meeker to refuel and then departed about 3:10 p.m. for Jefferson County Airport. The plane never arrived at its destination.
The air patrol started to focus on the Marvine Ranch Sunday after receiving a tip from Rio Blanco authorities late Saturday. The sheriff's department there received reports from residents that they saw a plane flying low over the ranch on the day the men disappeared.
Monday's effort was scaled back compared to the previous five days. Although 35 volunteers were on hand, only five planes were available. Earlier in the search more planes had been available.
"Today is a work day for many of the volunteers," Alsum said. "We don't have quite as much help as we did Saturday and Sunday."
Authorities speculate the men may have been in a hurry to get to the 6 p.m. game and the weather could have been a factor, along with Filippe's flying experience between 600 and 800 hours.
Until Sunday, the Civil Air Patrol had focused its search between Meeker and Kremmling.
The Civil Air Patrol believes the plane went down shortly after taking off from Meeker. There was no radar contact with the plane once it left the small airport.
Searchers have also not picked up a signal from the plane's emergency locator transmitter, which would sound automatically if the plane went down.
With a strong battery, the ELT could emit a signal for four to five days.