This could have been much worse: a single-engine Piper 180 aircraft crashed in Yellowstone National Park Friday night near the Sylvan Pass, with the pilot and a passenger treated for minor injuries.
James Betzhold, age 61, and his son Douglas Betzhold, age 25, both from Beluga, Alaska, were en route to Boise, Idaho. The pair had just taken off from Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody, Wyoming at approximately 4:00 p.m. on Friday after a refueling stop when the crash occurred. The aircraft went down just inside the eastern boundary of Yellowstone National Park, southeast of the East Entrance road near Sylvan Pass.
The Park Country Sheriff’s Office 911 Communications Center received the report of an overdue aircraft shortly after midnight. The Park County (WY) Search and Rescue Unit and Yellowstone National Park rangers began a joint search for the aircraft at first light Saturday morning. Search crews were able to approximate the location of the aircraft through tracking signals from its emergency location transmitter. The Park County aircraft located the wreckage shortly before 9 a.m. and was able to confirm that both occupants had survived.
A joint rescue operation was initiated, which included ground units from Yellowstone National Park and Park County WY Search and Rescue. As rescue began making their way to the site of the crash, approximately 1,500 yards south of the East Entrance road, both survivors were observed walking out under their own power. The men sustained bruises, lacerations and possible fractures. Both were transported to West Park Hospital by ambulance.
The exact cause of the crash is as yet undetermined. The investigation has been turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in coordination with the National Park Service.