Four days after his aircraft disappeared over the Wyoming mountains, there's a bit of good news in the search for Luke Bucklin and three of his children.
The Fremont County Sheriff's Office said today that a specially equipped aircraft flew over the search area numerous times on Thursday and confirmed picking up a weak signal. So weak, in fact, that it was unable to pinpoint the exact location of the transmission.[jump]
"This is a very mountainous area and signals such as those from an emergency transponder bounce off of rocks, cliffs and peaks, making detection difficult," said Incident Commander Chip Williams.
There's good reason to think the signal is coming from the Bucklins' aircraft, since there are no other planes reported missing in the area, a sheriff's spokesman said in a statement on the Bucklin family website. And it sounded as though the transponder may be being activated manually, "or automatically in a manner similar to the deployment of an air bag in a sudden impact."
The Bucklins, who live in Southwest Minneapolis, were in Wyoming on vacation. Luke and the three boys took off Monday afternoon in a snow storm, headed for Minneapolis. His wife, Ginger, and the rest of their children had taken a commercial flight and arrived home safely.
Bucklin is CEO at Sierra Bravo, a Bloomington website/interactive agency. There's been talk there about employees heading west to help with the search. But in an e-mail, company cofounder Mike Derheim told employees they're better off staying home.
As qualified and tough as the search team is, there are even some of its members restricted from trekking into what we now understand to be among the most rugged and remote areas in the country.
The search is focusing on a 9 square-mile area of wildernss near Gannet Peak in the Wind River Range. There's heavy snow and timber in the area. The nearest road is 20 miles from the search area, and the search parties are being dropped in by helicopter.