By CHRIS COLLINS
Of the Baker City Herald
Although rancher Harry Soulen was aware that Brian Moodys plane might have gone down on his property near the Snake River when it disappeared last November, finding it was the last thing on his mind as he gathered cattle on horseback Monday evening.
But the minute he spotted the propeller sticking up from a brushy creek bed, there was no question in his mind about what he had found.
I knew it had to be the Idaho Power plane that went down, he said in a telephone interview Thursday from his home at Weiser, Idaho.
Moody, 34, owner of Baker Aircraft, and Keith Williams, 29, of Spokane, Wash., had been missing since missing Nov. 16. They were flying over the Hells Canyon area to count deer for Idaho Power Co. when the plane disappeared.
Both mens bodies were recovered from the wreckage Wednesday by the Washington County Sheriffs Department and the county coroner.
After spotting the plane, Soulen said he got down from his horse and examined the wreckage. He took some small items from the crash site to present to the sheriffs department to help identify the plane, he said.
Because of the remoteness of the ranch, which is on Sturgill Creek north of Weiser on the Idaho side of the Snake River, there is no phone service. Soulen said cell phones also are useless because of the deep canyons.
Its very steep and very rugged and rather unforgiving, he said. As they say, steeper than a cows face, thats about how it is.
Soulen called the sheriffs department Tuesday to report that hed found the wreckage and then led sheriffs officers and the coroner to the crash scene Wednesday.
The 41-year-old rancher said his family runs cattle on 6,500 acres of deeded ground and leases another 6,500 acres from the Bureau of Land Management. This is the first plane to crash on their ranch land in the 26 years they have owned the property, he said.
During the nearly month-long search for Moodys plane last fall, Soul said plans from the Civil Air Patrol, Idaho Power Co. and other agencies flew over the ranch many times in the hope of finding the plane.
While riding for cattle last winter he kept a look out for any signs of the wreckage, he said.
I knew it was certainly a possibility that I might run onto it, he said. But it was kind of like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Soulen said he was glad that he was able to help solve the mystery of the planes disappearance.
It was a terrible tragedy and I have a lot of sympathy for the families, he said. I just hope this helps them kind of get on with their lives.
Baker County Sheriff Troy Hale added his condolences to the families in a press release issued Thursday.
While we are pleased this mystery is now solved, we are truly sorry for the loss of Moody and Williams, he said. We also thank all those who participated in the original search conducted last year. The Civil Air Patrol, Oregon State Police and our own Mounted Posse were tireless in their effort to locate the missing plane.
Hale said those involved in the search speculate that their efforts were unsuccessful because the plane went down in an area that was socked in by a 1,000-foot layer of heavy fog at the time between 4,000 and 5,000 feet elevation. The plane was found at 4,800 feet. It is unclear whether the foggy conditions might have caused the crash, he said.
No funeral arrangements have been scheduled yet for Moody or Williams, he added.