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Authorities expand search for missing Santa Rosa fliers

Authorities were planning to resume their search today across the snow-covered northern Sierra Nevada for a single-engine plane flown by a Santa Rosa couple that went missing ?six days ago after taking off from Truckee.

Five search planes on Saturday crisscrossed a nearly 400-square-mile area about 18 miles northwest of the Truckee-Tahoe Airport for any signs ?of Mark and Brenda Richard’s white and blue Socata TB-20. The couple departed the airport Monday afternoon, bound for Petaluma.

“We’re flying grid patterns,” said Maj. Kathy Johnson, spokeswoman for the Civil Air Patrol. “It’s all divided up. Every plane has its own area. You search it methodically.”

Johnson said the search area has grown slightly from earlier in the week and is now 28 miles by 14 miles wide. The couple was tracked there by radar and cellphone information.

The plane was equipped with an emergency locator transmitter, but no signals have been detected from the beacon.

Searchers had clear weather Saturday morning, but winds picked up by the afternoon and the search was suspended.

Snow blanketing the ground and the plane’s light color have hampered the effort so far, she said.

“When you’ve got a white plane, it just blends in,” Johnson said.

She said the majority if not all of the search area is covered in snow.

Other aircraft from the CHP and state Air National Guard joined in the search Friday, while numerous other agencies led by Sierra and Nevada county law enforcement conducted ground searches.

“We are continuing visual and photographic searches, and with the improving weather and melting snow, we are hopeful that we will find the missing airplane.” Maj. Steven DeFord, Civil Air Patrol operations section chief, said in a statement.

“We have volunteers on the ground actively reviewing over 4,500 high-resolution images captured by our air crews,” said Lt. Col. David Boehm.

Johnson said there is ?no time period for how ?long the search will continue.

“It’s day by day. Tomorrow, we will all show ?up,” she said Saturday evening.

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