LIBBY — Two people on their way to a Stinger Welding Inc. company Christmas party died when their plane crashed near Libby around midnight Tuesday, according to the Western News.
The victims were Carl Douglas, chief executive officer of the Arizona-based bridge-building firm, and John Smith, a Stinger employee. Both are from Coolidge, Ariz.
Douglas was piloting the twin-engine Beechcraft plane that crashed on Swede Mountain about three miles northeast of the Libby airport.
The plane wreckage was found Wednesday night and the bodies of the victims were brought out by snowmobiles at dawn on Thursday, according to a news release from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
The recovery operation was led by Sheriff Roby Bowe, accompanied by members of the Sheriff’s Office and David Thompson Search and Rescue.
Lincoln County Coroner Steve Schnackenberg will take the remains to the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula for autopsy.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board have begun investigations of the fatal crash.
Bowe said the men left Coolidge at about 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday and were to arrive in Libby just after midnight.
They were on their way to Libby for company meetings Wednesday as well as a Stinger Christmas party on Friday.
Stinger officials, expecting Douglas for a meeting Wednesday morning, initially suspected his car had gone off the road after arriving at the airport.
However, when they contacted the airport, Douglas’ plane was not in the hangar.
Douglas was reported missing at 11:12 a.m. Wednesday morning by Steve Patrick, vice president of Montana operations for Stinger Welding. Patrick called the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office to report an overdue aircraft.
The plane wreckage was covered by heavy snowfall, making it difficult for rescuers to locate it until after dark on Wednesday.
Bowe described it as “an extensive crash debris field.”
Douglas has been president and CEO of Stinger since its founding in July 1996.
Stinger has a manufacturing branch in Libby and Douglas frequently flew between Arizona and Libby.