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Soviet Satellite Locates Downed Plane in Which Four People Died

January 9, 1985

FURNACE CREEK, Calif. (AP) _ An orbiting Soviet satellite is credited with helping to locate the wreckage of a single-engine plane in which four people were killed.

The Beechcraft Bonanza was discovered Tuesday in the mountains of Death Valley where it crashed Monday during a snowstorm. Killed were pilot Chuck Downs of Norco, Calif., and passengers Edith, Wes and Dorothy Menke.

The wreckage was found by a Civil Air Patrol plane which tracked an emergency locator transmitter signal initially received by the Soviet Cospas 3 satellite.

″The satellite’s up there with a black box on it,″ said Air Force Lt. Col. Frank Gerken. ″It receives a signal, it sends it right back,″ he said in a telephone interview from Scott Air Force Base, Ill. ″...It immediately retransmits the same signal.″

Downs had left Corona, Calif., which is near Norco about 45 miles east of Los Angeles, and was bound for Yerington, Nev., hometown of Edith Menke, 67. Her son Wes and his wife Dorothy were also from Norco.

Search planes could not go out until Tuesday because of the snowy, rainy weather, which also may have caused the crash, said National Park Service Ranger Frank Rayner.

The wreckage was found 30 miles north of the Furnace Creek park headquarters of Death Valley National Monument.

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