Searchers hunting for a downed plane carrying a Minnesota father and three of his sons are still unable to pinpoint the location of the plane's emergency signal.
The sixth day of searching for four members of a Minneapolis family missing in the Wyoming mountains ended without success Sunday. Searchers had focused on trying to pinpoint the source of an emergency signal believed to be from the family's downed airplane.
The signal is only designed to last three to five days, said Ernie Over, public information officer for the rescue operation.
"We're near the end of that life span for the locator on that flight," Over said. "So we're trying to make sure that signal is there still. It's really hard to pinpoint that thing, because the signal is bouncing off everything."
Two ground search teams and Civil Air Patrol aircraft were part of Sunday's search for Luke Bucklin and his sons, 14-year-old twins Nate and Nick and 12-year-old Noah, whose single-engine Mooney airplane disappeared from radar as it was returning from Jackson Hole to the Twin Cities last week.
The 9-square-mile search area is at an elevation of 11,000 to 12,000 feet near Wyoming's highest peak in an unforgiving landscape of canyons, gullies, timber and boulder fields.
Weather affected the search throughout the weekend. Ground search teams were flown back to the command center Sunday afternoon as bad weather began to roll in, Over said. Two search teams were forced to spend Saturday night at 10,000 feet in blizzard-like conditions, the sheriff's office said.
The ground teams spent Sunday conducting grid searches to look for physical evidence of the missing plane.
"There are a lot of crevices, a lot of canyons, shaded areas and big snowbanks," Over said. "The ground teams are walking through varying ground conditions, from heavy snow to windblown ridges."
The sheriff's office said rescuers were buoyed Saturday by hand-written messages of prayers and support from friends and colleagues of the Bucklins. The Bucklins' minister, Pastor John Sommerville of City Church in Minneapolis, said relatives, including Luke Bucklin's wife, Ginger, and his children Oliver, 5, Sami, 16, and Sarah, 19, are monitoring the prayers at a Web page called prayersforluke.com.
Friends of the boys started a "Wear Blue for the Bucklins" Facebook page, and relatives also created a Web page called thanks.lukeandginger.com where anyone can submit thank-you messages or videos to the rescue team.
Luke Bucklin, 40, is president and cofounder of Sierra Bravo, a Web development company in Bloomington.
Staff writer Mary Jane Smetanka contributed to this report. Lora Pabst • 612-673-4628