Christian Winger back home after going to help find Bucklins [UPDATE]

The disappearance of Luke Bucklin and his three sons in a private plane somewhere over Wyoming has taken a toll on students at Southwest High School and Anthony Middle School.

Then this morning came news that Christian Winger, a Washburn High School freshman, may have left home on his own yesterday to help find the Bucklins.

Luke Bucklin, founder and CEO of the Sierra Bravo website development company in Bloomington, was at the controls of the four-seat, single engine, Mooney 201 that took off from Jackson Hole in snowy weather on Monday.

Sons Nick, 14; Nate, 14; and Noah 12 were on board. The two older boys, twins, are freshmen at Southwest. Noah is a student at Anthony, where friends have left mementos and decorations on the boy's locker.

Winger's parents told the Star Tribune that Christian and Nick were best friends, and that they found this note from Christian on Wednesday:

"I gotta go sorry, it's not in me to leave my friend to die, my best friend," began the note to his mother, Mary Kohout. "So I have to go, I made up my mind, hopefully I'll be back soon. I couldn't begin to live my life normally with Nick's fate, I have to do something about it. ... I know you won't give me a ride so I'll have to walk.

"P.S. I'm not running away, I'll be back, it will be awhile."

They hadn't seen or heard from him again -- until late this morning, when he walked in the door, cold and tired.

The Bucklins' plane is believed to have gone down in the remote Wind River Range east of Jackson Hole, where snow-covered mountain peaks reach up to almost 14,000 feet. Ginger Bucklin, Luke's wife, said on her website that the family had been on vacation in the Jackson area, and that she and their daughters had returned to Minneapolis separately.

A Facebook page has been created to urge friends and family to "Wear Blue For The Bucklins" on Friday. And Citychurch has set up a Prayers For Luke page.

The Fremont County Sheriff's Office says that search teams are focusing the search on a nine-square mile area east of Gannett Peak, the tallest mountain in the state.

"This is a huge search area and we will be acting on intelligence as the days goes on. We're going to hit this hard again today," Incident Commander Chip Williams said in a press release.

Several helicopters crisscrossed the search area on multiple sorties Wednesday. A fast moving winter storm front that hit the area with up to 15 inches of snow Tuesday night made observation from the air difficult as search teams reported the ground cover was very bright with fresh white snow. The missing aircraft is also white. Search crews are concentrating their efforts east of the last known location of the aircraft where the terrain ranges from 11,000 to 13,000 feet in elevation.

The nearest road from the search area is over 20 miles away with only hiking and horseback trails providing access into the area.

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