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Wreckage of missing plane in Montana found; all 4 on board dead

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Wreckage of missing plane found
  • NEW: Four were on board, no survivors
  • Plane disappeared Sunday
  • Two passengers were reporters for a Montana paper

(CNN) -- Searchers found wreckage of a plane missing in Montana with four people on board but there were no survivors, authorities said Wednesday.

The wreckage was found in a rugged area, and two rescuers had to rappel from a helicopter to the site, said Lake County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Carey Cooley. "It was a very heavily timbered area, with rugged terrain," she said.

The bodies of all four victims were found with the wreckage, she said.

The helicopter came in after the wreckage had been spotted earlier from a plane being used in the search.

"It was located close to the last point of radar contact (with the plane)," said Cooley.

Earlier Wednesday before the wreckage was sighted, family members of the four missing passengers joined the organized search effort.

The single-engine Piper Arrow was last contacted Sunday, and several witnesses reported seeing the plane flying extremely low, Cooley said. A search aircraft was launched from Malmstrom Air Force Base Tuesday afternoon, and ground crews were combing the area on all-terrain vehicles, she said.

A concerned relative notified authorities Sunday that the plane was overdue, the Federal Aviation Administration told CNN.

The aircraft was flying under visual flight rules and the pilot did not file a flight plan. The concerned relative said it took off Sunday from Missoula en route to Kalispell, about 115 miles away, with a stop at Glacier National Park, FAA spokesman Mike Fergus said.

Two of the passengers, Erika Hoefer and Melissa Weaver, were reporters for the Daily Inter Lake, a northwest Montana paper, but were not on assignment, said Scott Crandell, assistant managing editor.