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Published October 27, 2010, 08:10 AM

Plane with Minn. exec, 3 kids missing in Wyoming

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A second team of mountaineers moved Wednesday to join the search in western Wyoming for an airplane that disappeared with a Minneapolis business executive and his three children onboard.

By: BEN NEARY, Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A second team of mountaineers moved Wednesday to join the search in western Wyoming for an airplane that disappeared with a Minneapolis business executive and his three children onboard.

The single-engine plane carrying Luke Bucklin, 41, and his three boys left the Jackson airport Monday in a snowstorm. It disappeared from radar an hour later over the craggy Wind River Range.

The second four-man team of mountaineers was traveling by helicopter Wednesday to join a team that went into the area on Tuesday, said Sgt. Ryan Lee of the Fremont County sheriff's office.

Several of the mountaineers searching on the ground are associated with the National Outdoor Leadership School, based in Lander.

The search is concentrating on about 9 square miles near Gannett Peak, Wyoming's tallest mountain at just over 13,800 feet. No emergency signal has been detected from the single-engine, 1977 Mooney propeller plane, officials said.

Searchers haven't heard anything from members of the first team, who camped in the area after flying in Tuesday night, Lee said. The area received about 15 inches of snow from the storm that lifted on Wednesday, he said.

"The weather's favorable, it's listed as in our favor at this time," Lee said. The search is difficult because of the nature of the terrain, he said. Two helicopters also are searching.

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 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.

The family issued a statement Wednesday afternoon expressing thanks for the support they had received while waiting for word of the outcome of the search.

"The prayers and kind thoughts from family, friends, co-workers and even strangers have provided tremendous comfort during this extremely challenging time," the family stated.

They asked for people to pray for the search teams. "They are our heroes and we cannot express our gratitude enough for their courageous efforts."

Harris said other family members, friends and colleagues from Luke Bucklin's Bloomington, Minn.-based web development company, Sierra Bravo Corp., have been spending time at the Bucklins' family home since the plane went missing.

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.

"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."

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Associated Press writer Patrick Condon contributed to this report from Minneapolis.

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