by David McLeod
Turbulence buffeted the DHC-2 Beaver. The radio direction finder showed an emergency beacon nearby. Paul held firmly to the wheel. Beside him, Larry split his attention between a map and the instruments. "I've got our location," Larry called over the engine. "The beacon's somewhere on the south slope of that peak. No name on the map."
"Call it in," Paul said. "I'll move in a little closer—see if we can spot wreckage."
Larry nodded, and keyed the radio. "J'ville Sheriff, J'ville Sheriff, this is Auxiliary Deputy Bowen on tac-one. Beacon positive south slope of peak at coordinates…" The boy read off the latitude and longitude, released the mike key, and waited for a reply.
"Nothing!" he said. "I don't think I got through."
"Try guard frequency," Paul said, as he moved the aircraft closer to the mountain.
Larry switched the radio to an aeronautical frequency that was monitored—guarded—by many aircraft and most aeronautical ground facilities.
"No answer," he reported.
"Try your PDA," Paul said. Larry looked doubtful, but keyed in 911.
"It's ringing!" he cried. He was little more than half-way through his report to the dispatcher when he heard a sharp crack. As Larry blacked out, he smelled cinnamon.
The dispatcher at the county 911 center played the tape again. "This is Auxiliary Sheriff's Deputy Bowen. We have a positive crash beacon on the south slope of a peak at coordinates—" The voice on the tape stopped abruptly; there was no hiss, no crackle, no sound at all.
"We know where they were," the technician said. "Bowen's PDA was GPS-equipped. The beacon is almost certainly there." He pointed to the map.
"If I know Paul, he would have been making s-turns from the top of the mountain toward the bottom, looking for wreckage or survivors," Deputy Davis said. "That's standard procedure, and he was strictly by-the-book."
The ground rescue team found the survivors of the first crash: a doctor from Salt Lake City and his family. Of the plane that carried the two auxiliary deputies, there was no sign. They heard no beacon. They found no wreckage. They found no survivors. Ever.