Searchers have recovered the bodies of two men whose airplane crashed into the Great Salt Lake two weeks ago. Dive teams located the pilot, 71-year-old Denny Mansell, and passenger 74-year-old Peter Ellis, Saturday morning.
Box Elder County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Dale Ward said scuba divers recovered the bodies of the two missing men, inside the crashed Cessna 172, under about 20-feet of water. The bodies were transported to the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy, and to determine the exact cause of death.
Mansell and Ellis were reported missing after they failed to return home from a private flight, December 29. The two men took off from the Ogden Hinckley Airport earlier in the afternoon. They had told family members, they planned to fly to the Promontory area and view the trains at the Golden Spike Historical Site from the air.
Searchers found the crash site last week in the north part of the lake, after analyzing radar data from the aircraft prior to its loss of signal and following up on tips from the public. They used sonar equipment, to determine that the object was an airplane about the size of the missing Cessna 172.
Ward said recovery efforts had been hampered because of bad weather and equipment issues, primarily because of the saline levels in the water. Divers had to almost double their body weight in order to get down to the aircraft. Once there, visibility was less than a foot and most of the work had to be completed by feel.
Deputies, along with search and rescue teams were assisted by the Utah Department of Public Safety, Civil Air Patrol, Box Elder Communications Center, Utah Division of Natural Resources, and the Weber County Scuba/Search and Rescue.
Ward said search and rescue teams are thankful to bring some closure to the Mansell and Ellis families. They also extended their condolences.
The investigation has been turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board.
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