Sunday, February 12, 2012

Snowmobilers rescue pilot after plane crash on Mount Baker glacier


BELLINGHAM - A 28-year-old Bellingham man was safe at home Sunday after crashing a private plane Saturday night on the south side of Mount Baker.

The pilot, who was not named, apparently was rescued by snowmobilers, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office. The plane was a described as a Piper, but its model was unavailable.

The state Transportation Department and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the incident. Officials from those agencies did not return phone calls Sunday afternoon.
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The incident began as an aircraft was reported missing Saturday night by family members who said the pilot had not returned from his trip to take photos of Mount Baker. About the same time, the Transportation Department's Aviation Division was alerted to an emergency beacon from a downed aircraft.

A crew from the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station was scrambled to search for the lost plane.

Meanwhile, law-enforcement officials in Whatcom County received reports about 7:20 p.m. Saturday of both a snowmobile accident and a plane crash or forced landing at Schreibers Meadow, a popular recreation area south of the 10,781-foot Mount Baker.

Although much of the land in the Mount Baker National Recreation Area is designated wilderness and off-limits to vehicles, there is a small portion that's open to snowmobilers. It's accessible only by unpaved roads from Whatcom County to the east and by Forest Service roads and hiking trails from Skagit County west of Baker Lake Road.

When search-and-rescue personnel arrived at Schreibers Meadow, they learned that injured snowmobilers had been taken off the mountain by friends. Information on the extent of their injuries was unknown.

Search and rescue personnel proceeded toward the signal from the plane's emergency beacon on the Deming Glacier at the 7,800-foot level.

When they reached the plane, it was empty. Officials learned later that snowmobilers had transported the pilot off the mountain.

It was unknown how the plane was to be removed from the glacier.

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