Plane with Minn. exec, 3 kids missing in Wyoming

Published 3:00 pm Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CHEYENNE — Searchers resumed looking on Wednesday for a small plane carrying a Minneapolis business executive and his three children missing a remote area of western Wyoming.

After two days of snow, the weather was calm and clear in the Wind River Range near Lander, where the plane carrying Luke Bucklin, 41, and three of his sons disappeared from radar Monday after taking off from the Jackson airport in a snowstorm.

The Fremont County sheriff’s office said no emergency signal has been detected from the single-engine, 1977 Mooney propeller plane.

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An Air Force helicopter searched from the air Wednesday and four mountaineers hiked into the search area, centered near Gannett Peak — Wyoming’s tallest peak at 13,802 feet. The search area is within the Fitzpatrick Wilderness Area, about 20 miles from the nearest highway. The sheriff’s office said it’s among the most remote wilderness areas in the continental United States.

Bucklin and his sons were returning to Minneapolis after a visit to Jackson when the plane disappeared. Bucklin’s family website identifies the boys as 14-year-old twins Nate and Nick and 12-year-old Noah.

Bonnie Harris, a family friend of Luke Bucklin and his wife, Ginger Bucklin, said the family had been in Wyoming for a wedding and family vacation. Ginger Bucklin and the couple’s youngest son flew home separately on a commercial flight, Harris said.

Ginger Bucklin is stepmother to Nate, Nick and Noah, Harris said. The boys’ biological mother has joined Ginger Bucklin at the family’s home in Minneapolis as they await word. The leader of the search team has been calling Ginger Bucklin directly from his satellite radio with regular updates, Harris said.

“They have been a blended family for a very long time and in this, they are one big family,” Harris said.

Also spending time at the Bucklins’ home since word of the plane’s disappearance Monday night have been other family members, friends and colleagues from Luke Bucklin’s Bloomington, Minn.-based web development company, Sierra Bravo Corp.

The Bucklins are active members of a small Edina congregation, City Church. About 80 people attended a prayer vigil Tuesday night, Pastor John Somerville said.

Sommerville said the three boys are popular members of the church’s youth group. Church employees individually called parents with children in the group to tell them about the situation and encourage them to attend the prayer service, he said.

“We’re just continuing to covet peoples’ prayers,” Sommerville said. “We’re hoping for the best but we’re realistic at the same time. Our trust and hope is in God.”