All three people aboard a Chehalis-based plane that crashed in Lewis County early Monday morning were found dead when the wreckage was located on Tuesday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff's Office.
MORTON, Lewis County — All three people aboard a Chehalis-based plane that crashed in Lewis County early Monday morning were found dead when the wreckage was located on Tuesday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.
The dead were identified as Ken Sabin, a board member of the Chehalis-Centralia Airport who piloted the plane; Rod Rinta, a laser technician at Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute, the company that owned the plane, and Dr. Paul Shenk, a PCLI surgeon. Sabin and Rinta were from Lewis County; Shenk was from Woodland, Cowlitz County.
The Chehalis-based twin-engine Cessna was discovered about 10 miles from Morton at an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet strewn in a trail of wreckage for more than 50 yards.
“It was destroyed on impact,” Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield said.
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The people on the plane were on a business trip and headed toward the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport in Lewiston, Idaho.
Before 7:30 a.m. Monday, Sabin reported to the Chehalis airport that he had lost power to one of the plane’s two engines while flying over the Gifford Pinchot National Forest between Morton and Packwood. In less than two minutes, the plane dropped more than 10,000 feet from its cruising altitude of 15,000 feet.
But the plane recovered. After reascending to 12,000 feet, the plane reversed its easterly direction and headed back toward Chehalis on its previous flight path.
Air traffic control lost radar contact with the plane at 7:44 a.m. Monday.
Approximately that same time, a logging crew and a forester in the area — at two different locations — reportedly heard an aircraft banking hard, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.
Throughout Monday, search crews on the ground and in Foster’s helicopter scoured an area of about three square miles while detecting a faint “squelch,” which turned out to be a false beacon. The plane’s beacon had never transmitted.
About 80 search-and-rescue volunteers “saturated” the area on foot Tuesday morning with four dogs, according to Deputy Chief Gene Seiber of the sheriff’s office.
“And it’s bad country,” Seiber said, noting the rugged terrain was too difficult for horses.
Additional search helicopters with the Navy and Pierce and King counties remained on standby Tuesday morning because of inclement weather, Mansfield said.
“It’s snowing sideways up there,” said Butch Moon, 41, of Adna, Lewis County, who participated in the ground search.
Without transmission from the plane’s beacon, Mansfield said search crews continued searching for the plane in the same general area as Monday based on witness testimony and on where it was when it lost radar contact.
“It was exactly where we anticipated it to be,” Mansfield said.
The cause of the crash will be investigated by the FAA, he said.
With snow continuing to fall early Tuesday afternoon, Mansfield said his first priority was getting search teams out of the area before road conditions worsened.