Steamboat Springs The families of four Nevada men whose small plane disappeared somewhere in Northwest Colorado remained hopeful Thursday the men would be found alive.
"This is killing me," said Lynnette Jones, the wife of Ross Jones, one of the four men on the plane. "Everyone has good thoughts here, and there are a lot of prayers going out.
"We really believe they will find them, and they will be cranky and hungry."
On Thursday, the Colorado Civil Air Patrol moved its search mission to the Steamboat Springs Airport.
Volunteers from around the state searched for 12 hours Thursday without any luck and called off the day's efforts at about 6 p.m., said Jim Alsum, a 32-year veteran of the air patrol who is coordinating the search.
The search will resume this morning.
In addition to Ross Jones, the plane carried pilot Dan Filippe, and brothers Jon and Mark Peters. All are in their 40s and all are from Reno, Nev. The plane was last seen taking off from the airport in Meeker, where the men had stopped to refuel.
The men were flying to the Jefferson County Airport to catch Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals in Denver. But the plane, a blue-and-white Cherokee-180, never made it to its destination.
On Wednesday, the Civil Air Patrol launched a search based out of Meeker before moving Thursday to Steamboat.
About 45 volunteers from the air patrol participated in the search.
The focus of the search is the rural area east of Meeker and west of Kremmling, Alsum said.
"There is nothing to prove to me that (the plane) is anywhere else," Alsum said. "We are going to stay in that area."
Authorities speculated that the men may have been in a hurry, trying to make it in time for the 6 p.m. game. Weather also may have been a factor, and authorities said Filippe had limited flying experience between 600 and 800 hours.
On Wednesday, a 160-mile route between Meeker and Denver was the focus.
Thursday's search started at about 6 a.m. with 12 Cessna-128 airplanes flying over eight search areas between Meeker and Kremmling. Two ground crews just east of Meeker are also searching the area.
The four men left Reno at about 7 a.m. Tuesday in the rented airplane.
The day before the trip, Filippe had taken it out on a test flight, Lynnette Jones said.
The plane stopped and refueled in Meeker at about 2 p.m. and then departed for Jefferson County Airport at about 3:10 p.m. The plane was last seen leaving the airport.
"They were real excited to be going to the game," said Relda Coulter, who manages and operates the airport in Meeker with her husband, Gary. "We refueled them, and they took off. I saw them depart, but I did not pay much attention."
Other witnesses at the airport have told authorities the plane took off on an uphill runway with a downwind and that the plane was having trouble climbing.
Alsum believes the aircraft went down shortly after takeoff near Meeker.
The sparse, mountainous area made the search difficult.
"The terrain varies from 11,000 feet to 8,000 feet," said Lt. Col. Jack Dysart, a volunteer pilot from Steamboat Springs. "It is going to be tough to spot something in this terrain."
Alsum, who has been involved in about 400 aircraft searches, said, because there are so many variables involved in a search, it is difficult to say when it might be concluded.
"There are so many possibilities," he said.
"Searching is not easy. Sometimes a search can end quickly, but occasionally it can take weeks or even years."
The trip for the four men was one they had been waiting to make for the past three years, Lynnette Jones said.
"They were really excited to go," she said Thursday from her Reno home. "A friend in Denver has a box. He promised the guys four tickets."
When the Avalanche made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, the men planned the trip for Tuesday night's game. They were expected to return to Reno Wednesday morning.
Lynette Jones and other members of the family started to worry Tuesday evening.
"I got off work about 5 p.m., and I had not received a phone call," Lynnette Jones said. "At that time, I knew they should have been there."
Lynette Jones called the friend in Denver who had gotten the tickets for her husband and the other men. The friend said the men were not at the game and had not picked up the tickets left for them.
Ross Jones and the Peters brothers all work as bartenders at Lucke's Saloon in Reno. Filippe is a close friend of the three men, she said.
Lynette Jones praised the efforts of the Civil Air Patrol.
"They have been really good in keeping us informed," she said.