Radar coordinates made available Monday evening show the Strawberry Peak area as the last known location of a UHP helicopter missing since Saturday.
Crews shifted their search Tuesday to center at the peak, fanning out into adjacent canyons, Duchesne County Sheriff Merv Gustin said."We've got plenty of variables in here, we're trying to use the last coordinate as a center," Gustin said. "We're just optimistic we're going to do something today."
Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Doyle R. Thorne was en route to the Argyle Canyon area of Duchesne County Saturday to help look for a missing Arizona girl when he received word she had been found unharmed. The radar shows he turned northwest to return to Salt Lake City, with the last radar blip at 9,600 feet in the Strawberry Peak area, according to Gustin and the Salt Lake Air Route Traffic Control Center.
"We've had people in that area all the time, but it wasn't our main area - now it is," Gustin said.
Nearly 300 searchers on horseback, vehicles, ORVs and on foot were sent into the region Tuesday. Meanwhile, six helicopters and five planes criss-crossed the skies above western Duchesne County, hoping to spot anything resembling wreckage of the two-tone brown helicopter.
The radar records, which are kept on file at the center for 15 days, can be used to reconstruct the flight path of a specific aircraft using a known coordinate - in this case Thorne's origin in Salt Lake City - as basis.
It shows the direction and elevation of flight until the aircraft passes under the radar ceiling, possibly indicating a crash point within a radius of several miles. The records give searchers a more substantial location to focus their efforts, according to center officials.
Spirits remained optimistic with the news that narrowed the search area, Gustin said. Volunteers from throughout the state are among the troops looking for the veteran Utah peace officer - including scores of men and women who worked with him.
Law enforcement agencies from as far away as the Sevier County sheriff's office in Richfield have sent crews to the site. The Salt Lake County sheriff's office had more than 50 people searching in Duchesne County Monday and Tuesday. Officers from Maricopa County, Arizona - the home of the girl found Saturday - have also offered their services, Gustin said.
Thorne, a former Marine Corps pilot in Vietnam, has served the UHP's Aero Bureau as both a helicopter and fixed-wing pilot for six years. He was hired by UHP as a trooper in 1975, serving the Kanab area. Before his transfer to the Aero Bureau in 1988, he worked in Brigham City and Vernal.