Suspected crash site found near Meeker

Searchers comb lake for aircraft debris

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS Authorities searching for a missing plane converged Tuesday morning on the upper Marvine Lake after a fisherman reported finding debris thought to be from the aircraft.

Rio Blanco County Sheriff Phil Stubblefield had a dive team from Rangely Search and Rescue at the scene trying to locate signs of the plane and the four Nevada men it carried.

A National Guard helicopter provided an aerial search of the area. Authorities were unable to find the plane or the men, but the search of the lake area will resume at daybreak today, search officials said.

On board the plane were pilot Richard "Dan" Filippe, Ross "Roscoe" Jones and brothers Mark and Jon Peters, all of Reno, Nev. The men were last seen leaving the Meeker airport May 29 in a Cherokee-180 they had rented to fly to Denver.

They were on their way to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Colorado Avalanche and the New Jersey Devils.

The men left Reno early in the morning and departed from Meeker at about 3:10 p.m. after refueling.

"I have been expecting the worst," said Gary Holden, who has known three of the missing men for 15 years. "I'm shocked. These are great guys."

Authorities assembled at the area early Tuesday morning after they received a cellular phone call Monday night from a fisherman at the lake. The fisherman reported he and others in his party had found items in the lake that looked as if they may have come from the plane.

On Monday evening, Stubblefield organized a search of the remote area and arrived at the scene via helicopter just after 9 a.m. Tuesday. The lake is a four-hour horseback ride into the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

The dive team focused on a five-acre area of the lake that has water depths between 40 and 50 feet.

A search by the Colorado Civil Air Patrol was called off Monday night after it learned of the fisherman's discovery.

"The plane is in the wilderness area," said Jim Alsum, who coordinated the air patrol's six-day search for the plane.

The Civil Air Patrol's search started May 30 when a family member of one of the men reported the men missing.

On Tuesday morning, Alsum and the rest of the air patrol volunteers packed up their belongings and left the base they had set up at Steamboat Springs Airport.

"This is now in the hands of the Rio Blanco Sheriff's Office," Alsum said from a cellular phone as he was traveling home to Denver.

With the development, the National Transportation Safety Board has sent the chief of its Denver office, Norm Wiemeyer, to the site. Wiemeyer was en route to the lake Tuesday afternoon.

Holden said he has been closely following the search since last week when the men were reported missing. Holden lives in Auburn, Calif., which is about an hour from Reno.

Holden said he has been thinking about a trip he made with Jones and the Peters brothers to San Francisco last summer.

"We went and watched the San Francisco Giants play at Pac Bell Park," Holden said. "They are nice guys who love sports."

Tuesday's development was another rough day for Mike Lucke, who employed Jones and the Peters brothers at his Reno business, Lucke's Saloon.

"This is a sad thing," Lucke said. "Everyone loves them. This has been terrible. It has been extra somber here. This has been a real strain on everybody."

Jones has worked for Lucke for 13 years. Jon Peters has worked there eight years and his brother for about two years, Lucke said.

"This is more than an employee relationship I have with these guys," he said. "These guys are all good friends." (Gary E. Salazar is a reporter with the Steamboat Springs Pilot/Today.)

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