Pilot James Betzold, 61, and his son Douglas Betzold, 25, crashed shortly after a 4 p.m. take off from Cody's Yellowstone Regional Airport, said a news release from Park County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lance Mathess.
The Betzolds -- Beluga, Alaska, residents who had refueled in Cody while en route to Boise, Ida. -- were reported as overdue shortly after midnight today (Saturday).
A search for the fixed-wing Piper 180 aircraft began at Saturday's first light. A Park County Search and Rescue aircraft, using the downed plane's emergency location transmitter, found the crash site shortly before 9 a.m., Mathess said.
The aircraft crashed about 1,500 yards south of U.S. Highway 14-16-20 West, just inside Yellowstone's eastern boundary, Mathess said. A joint rescue operation made up of ground units from the National Park Service and Park County Search and Rescue found both Betzolds walking out under their own power while making their way to the site, Mathess said.
James Betzold was treated at the scene for possibly fractured ribs, a fractured nose and minor cuts, Mathess said, while Douglas Betzold reportedly had various scrapes and bruises.
Both men were taken by ambulance to West Park Hospital in Cody.
Park County Search and Rescue Commander Mart Knapp praised both men for their decision to stay with the downed plane until help arrived.
“Many times, people survive catastrophic incidents in the back country, only to succumb to the elements when they try to make their own way out,” said Knapp. “Their decision to wait for help quite possibly saved their lives.”
Deputy Chief Ranger Nick Herring of Yellowstone National Park echoed Commander Knapp’s assessment. Ranger Herring also had high praise for the "professionalism and expertise" of the unified rescue operation.
“They were able to quickly locate the aircraft and bring this incident to a successful conclusion," Herring said. "We are very fortunate to have these life-saving resources at our disposal.”
The exact cause of the crash is as yet undetermined, Mathess said. The investigation has been turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Editor's note: This version of the story corrects the spelling of the Betzolds' last name and removes an incorrect abbreviation for Alaska.