PROMONTORY, Box Elder County — Search and rescue crews have identified an object found in the Great Salt Lake as an airplane that matches the size and description of a plane that went missing last month.
While heavy fog hampered crews' efforts to navigate to the object's location, along with equipment issues that caused delays, a dive to further investigate the plane scheduled for Sunday morning was postponed. But there was an "upside" to Sunday's efforts, said Dale Ward, Box Elder County sheriff's chief deputy.
The object was "unequivocally identified as an airplane of the general size and description of our Cessna 172," Ward said in a news release Sunday.
The Cessna was carrying pilot Denny Mansell and passenger Peter Ellis, both in their 70s, when it went missing Dec. 29.
The men had planned to fly near the Promontory Point area and get a bird's-eye view of the winter steam engine festival at the Golden Spike National Historic Site.
The Weber County Sheriff's Office, Utah Department of Public Safety and Civil Air Patrol have all assisted in the search for the plane, as well as the 100 members of the Hill Flying Club, of which both Mansell and Ellis are members.
The Weber County Sheriff's Office had been helping Box Elder in the search by scanning the Great Salt Lake with sonar. On Saturday, officials found a "target" to investigate further, the agency posted on Facebook.
"(We) hope we are successful and can bring closure to the family," the post stated.
Images obtained from sonar "convinced us that the object was absolutely an airplane and was consistent with the size of a Cessna 172," Ward said.
The aircraft is resting on the bottom of the Great Salt Lake in about 14 feet of water on private property near Promontory, he said.
There is also a "sizable debris field" surrounding the aircraft, but none of those objects have been identified yet, Ward said.
The deputy said the "only way" to positively confirm the aircraft as the missing Cessna 172 is to have divers investigate it.
Due to weather and other logistical issues, the dive Sunday was postponed. It had not been rescheduled as of Sunday afternoon, Ward said.