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Local News

Heavy Snow Could Delay Search for Plane Indefinitely

Heavy snowfall has halted the search for a missing plane — piloted by a Solvang man — that disappeared over Yosemite National Park more than a week ago.

A park official said late Monday that the search could be put on hold until the snow melts in the spring, although that decision has not yet been made.

“We are not searching right now,” said Yosemite ranger Kari Cobb. “It’s been snowing since Friday night, and there is no visibility.”

The search area has received 4-5 feet of new snow since Friday, and the stormy conditions are expected to last for several more days, Cobb said.

“More than likely, we will not be able to search until the snow starts to melt off again, just because at this point the plane is probably covered in snow,” Cobb said.

The plane, which was en route from the Santa Ynez Airport to Mammoth Yosemite Airport near Mammoth Lakes, disappeared over the North Dome area of the park about 12:30 p.m. Dec. 17, Cobb said.

The pilot — the only person believed to be on board — has been identified as Nicol Wilson, who is in his late 60s, Cobb said.

FAA records show that the plane — a Mooney M20F, four-seat, propeller-driven aircraft — is registered to a Nicol S. Wilson of Solvang.

A spokesman for the Santa Ynez Airport confirmed the plane was based there, and said no signal has been picked up from the aircraft’s emergency locator transmitter.

North Dome is located along the Tioga Pass Road, which is inaccessible from the ground this time of year due to snow.

A decision on when to resume the search — which has been conducted from the air due to heavy snow in the search area — will be made once the snow storms abate, Cobb said.

Thus far, searchers have scoured 600 square miles of rugged terrain between 8,000 and 12,000 feet in elevation, Cobb said.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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