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Minnesota plane found crashed in Whatcom County

Washington State Department of Transportation provided this photo showing wreckage, just above the snowfield at center, believed to be of a Minnesota plane found in the Twin Sisters mountains east of Acme on Wednesday morning, July 15. Search crews will need to reach the site to make an official confirmation.
Washington State Department of Transportation provided this photo showing wreckage, just above the snowfield at center, believed to be of a Minnesota plane found in the Twin Sisters mountains east of Acme on Wednesday morning, July 15. Search crews will need to reach the site to make an official confirmation. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The wreckage of a small plane carrying a Minnesota couple was found Wednesday morning, July 15, on the Twin Sisters mountains in Whatcom County.

Civil Air Patrol pilots found scattered plane debris around 8 a.m. while searching the roughly 7,000-foot-tall mountains for an overdue plane flying from International Falls, Minn., to Orcas Island on Saturday, July 11.

The owner of a store in Minnesota identified the couple as Bob and Gail Nevalainen, according to the International Falls Journal.

King County Sheriff’s Office air crews were able to reach the crash site and recover two bodies Wednesday afternoon, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said. The tail registration number of the aircraft matched the aircraft reported missing from Minnesota.

The bodies were taken to the Whatcom County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Family members notified officials of the overdue flight Tuesday night, July 14, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The wreckage site was found using radar coordinates from the plane’s last known location Saturday, according to the DOT.

The crash site is about 10 miles east of Acme in a remote wilderness area with rugged terrain, Elfo said.

WSDOT said the plane wreckage is unrelated to the crash of a small plane carrying 16-year-old Autumn Veatch and her step-grandparents on Saturday. The Skagit County Sheriff’s Office took over the search for that plane Wednesday after wreckage was spotted Tuesday night near Easy Pass Trail. Veatch, of Bellingham, survived the crash and hiked out of the woods Monday. Deputies and rescue volunteers who reached the site on Wednesday found the wreckage still smoldering and flaring up. Two bodies were recovered.

It appears the two planes crashed within hours of each other. The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate both crashes to try to determine the causes.

Reach Wilson Criscione at 360-756-2803 or wilson.criscione@bellinghamherald.com.

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