Corvallis rescue team makes second attempt to retrieve bodies

31 March 2003
By FINN J. JOHN
Gazette-Times reporter

Members of an elite Corvallis-based rescue team are making a second attempt today to get the bodies of three fliers out of their fallen Cessna near the summit of Three Fingered Jack.

Eight volunteers from the Corvallis Mountain Rescue Unit made an attempt to get the frozen bodies out Tuesday morning, but were hampered by bad weather and rugged terrain. According to a news release from the Linn County Sheriff's Office, the mountain rescue team left its base camp near Hoodoo early in the morning, and it took until 12:30 p.m. for a team on skis to get to the crash site. The other team, lugging along the equipment that would be needed to cut the victims out of their severely damaged plane, was unable to get within three miles of the wreck.

"The terrain is severe enough that it caused snowmobiles and other over-snow vehicles to have trouble," said Joy Linn, president of Corvallis Mountain Rescue. "There's lots and lots of soft snow, and it's quite a difficult entry and a time-consuming exit as well. The weather conditions were less than ideal at the (crash) site, winds were estimated at 25 miles per hour, with visibility at 300 feet or less."

In the field were Corvallis Mountain Rescue members Matt Crawford, Lindsay Clunes and Jon Sears of Corvallis; Jason Wood of Albany; Bob Freund of Salem; Aaron Lee of Forest Grove; and Iain Morris of Portland. Member Becky Lyall of Corvallis provided support at the base camp.

Today, weather permitting, an Oregon Army National Guard helicopter will fly a recovery team and equipment to the site, avoiding the difficulties of trying to get the equipment in over the tough terrain.

The plane, a Cessna 182, crashed Sunday afternoon just southwest of the peak of Three Fingered Jack, which straddles Linn and Jefferson counties. The pilot, Brian Dittchen, 28, of Silverton, and passengers, Melissa Davidson, 24, of Salem, and Trenton Taylor, 27, of Bend, were on a sightseeing flight over the area burned by the B&B Complex wildfire last summer. They were reported missing after Dittchen failed to show up for work Monday morning, and the wreck was found later that day by a Civil Air Patrol volunteer. All three died in the crash and cannot be removed from the battered fuselage without extraction tools.

The cause of the crash had not been determined.

Reporter Jennifer Rouse contributed to this report. Finn J. John is a reporter for the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at 541-758-9530 or finn.john@lee.net.

Courtesy of Corvallis Gazette-Times