A northern Minnesota couple whose plane crashed in the mountains of northwest Washington state were well-known in their community for helping lead the township and as business people, a friend and colleague said Thursday.
Robert and Gail Nevalainen, of Kabetogama Township, left last week from the nearby International Falls airport on a vacation to Orcas Island in the Puget Sound. Their small plane crashed Saturday, and the wreckage was spotted Wednesday in the Cascade Mountains east of Bellingham.
Authorities have not said what led to the crash.
Robert Nevalainen, 62, was chairman of the township board, a retired firefighter and a fishing guide in Voyageurs National Park, said township Fire Chief Larry Warrington.
Gail Nevalainen, 58, was township treasurer, a member of the Fire Department and worked at the Gateway General Store in town, Warrington said.
Warrington described his friend Robert Nevalainen as an experienced pilot who considered flying his hobby.
A prayer vigil for the Nevalainens was held Wednesday afternoon at the Town Hall.
The Nevalainens' bodies were recovered Wednesday from the wreckage, on Twin Sisters Mountain, about 10 miles east of Acme, said Sheriff Bill Elfo. The crash scene was in a particularly remote and rugged area.
The Nevalainens were on vacation and not on a strict schedule, said Barbara LaBoe, a Washington State Department of Transportation spokeswoman. The plane was due to arrive Saturday. Relatives reported it missing Tuesday after trying to contact the couple, she said.