Search, Prayers Intensify for San Jose Pilot, Family

Crews were unable to find a missing San Jose pilot and his four relatives during a search Thursday, and it is unclear if the search will continue Friday.

Thursday was the fifth day rescue crews searched for the missing plane and passengers, with efforts intensifying and prayers flowing in from around the country, despite the odds and the cold.

"We're praying hard," Michael Morgan posted on Crystal Marie Chistensen's Facebook page on Thursday.

"Been thinking of your family all week, keeping you in our prayers. You and your family are such amazing examples of faith to so many people," posted Kat Bernfeld Andrus.

Christensen's father, Dale Smith, founder of SerialTek in San Jose, was piloting a BE-36 Beech Bonanza on Sunday when it disappeared in wilderness near the central Idaho town of Yellow Pine about 3:30 p.m.

Aboard his plane were: daughter, Amber Smith, who graduated from Santa Teresa High in San Jose; her fiancé, Jonathan Norton of Salt Lake City; Smith's son, Daniel Smith; and Smith's daughter-in-law Sheree Smith.

Amber Smith, a graduate of Santa Teresa High in San Jose, and Norton are both students at Brigham Young University in Idaho, and set their wedding date for Jan. 4. A friend, Aaryn Preece, provided NBC Bay Area their engagement photos. 

Smith's business partner, Randall Kriech, told NBC Bay Area the family had all left Baker, Ore., after celebrating Thanksgiving with Dale's father, and then headed to Butte, Montana, to drop off Daniel and Sheree Smith. Then, mid-way to Idaho, Kriech said Smith lost contact with air traffic controllers in Salt Lake City.

Smith's wife, Janis Hansen Smith, is in Idaho with search crews, along with Christensen, who lists that she now lives in Provo, Utah on her Facebook page. The couple have five children in all. They are also very active at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in San Jose.

The Valley County Sheriff's Office in rural, western Idaho said on Thursday that ground teams were focusing on drainages east of Johnson Creek airport in Idaho, and aerial crews are flying in grid patterns to locate the missing people.

MORE: Crews Search Idaho Wilderness for San Jose Exec, Family

Aircraft from the Civil Air Patrol and the Idaho Department of Transportation, as well as helicopters from the US Customs and Border Protection, the Idaho Army National Guard and a private Bell- 407 helicopter are helping out. Some have infrared technology, and helicopters can survey the area at a lower altitude and at slower speeds than fixed-wing aircraft.

“Today we have clear weather and are continuing the search using every available asset,” Sheriff's Incident Commander Lt. Dan Smith said in a statement.  “The terrain of the search area continues to be a challenge, and our thoughts are with the family of those believed to be on the plane.”

Smith's wife told on Wednesday that her family has been amazed at the outpouring of love and faith.

"We are indebted to the search and rescue crews working long, cold days in the rugged terrain of the search area," she told the news organization. "We appreciate the resources being pulled in as the search continues for our family."

While the Smith family is Mormon, the extended family, according to, includes members of many faiths.

"We've got Lutherans praying, Mormons praying, Catholics praying, and I've got many friends of different religions who have been sending prayers throughout the day," Norton's Uncle Matt Dayton told "The religion doesn't matter at this point. As long as they're praying, that's the key."

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