Mail bags may have taken flight over wilderness

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Still waiting for that important package to arrive?

It could be sitting under snow cover in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Around 1:30 a.m. Saturday, a cargo door became unlatched in a U.S. Postal Service-contracted plane en route to Kalispell from Billings, allowing for the possibility that two priority mail sacks may have been lost.

The plane, which was carrying up to 3,000 pounds of mail, was flying through falling snow near Eddie’s Corner west of Lewistown when the door came ajar.

While there is a chance that the mail sacks could have tumbled out, neither the Postal Service nor Alpine Air Express — the operator of the plane — have confirmed that any mail has been lost.

“We’re not absolutely positive if we lost anything,” Postal Service consumer affairs manager Lisa Blomquist said Thursday.

Gene Mallette, chief executive officer for the Utah-based flight company, said mail was still secured by netting in the cargo bay when the plane landed in Kalispell.

Alpine Air has had planes in the air searching for the possible lost mail sacks, but the search has been hampered by snow cover. Blomquist said air searches may resume today or Friday as snow melts in the area.

“We will continue to search in that area to see if anything is there,” Mallette maintained.

Priority mail is carried in 3-foot-wide bright orange nylon sacks. Two sacks can hold 20 to 25 pounds of mail, Blomquist said.

Mail on the flight was intended for zip codes beginning in 599. Blomquist said the post office has not heard any escalated concerns regarding missing mail since the incident.

If searches uncover anything, Blomquist said the Postal Service would expedite the mail.

“We’ll go full force in getting those packages to their destination,” Blomquist said.

Those concerned about missing packages should contact the Kalispell Post Office at 755-6450.

Reporter Erika Hoefer may be reached at 758-4439 or by e-mail at ehoefer@dailyinterlake.com

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