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Small plane crashes in Yellowstone National Park

Two Alaskan men were able to walk away after their single-engine aircraft crashed Friday inside Yellowstone National Park, southeast of Sylvan Pass in the Middle Creek drainage.

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.


  • posted by Steve Moseley

    October 14, 2013 11:53 am

    Actually, according to the official Associated Press Stylebook by way of which AP inflicts itself upon our industry, Alaska is never to be abbreviated in a newspaper. The Postal Service likes AK just fine, but the AP eschews such a common sense notion as to fall in line with the mailman, thus spreading this very kind of confusion across the land.
    Steve Moseley...Managing Editor...York (Neb. and definitely not NE) News-Times.

  • posted by flightnurse911

    October 13, 2013 4:28 am

    Perhaps the person writing this story should know the proper abbreviations for the states. Alaska is abbreviated "AK"--NOT "Ala." That would be closer to AL for Alabama.

  • posted by Debra

    October 12, 2013 11:13 pm

    I am so thankful my Uncle Jim and Douglas are ok I want to add my Thank you to everyone that helped as well God Bless you!

  • posted by Utahwyo

    October 12, 2013 9:03 pm

    That's powell for you. 2 different stories but no one knows the facts

  • posted by rosaleen gianakos

    October 12, 2013 4:39 pm

    ???? It says they were walking out when the rescue team found them and then Park County Search and Rescue Commander Mart Knapp praised both men for their decision to stay with the downed plane until help arrived.....2 different stories but thankful they survived

  • posted by Sharon Betzold

    October 12, 2013 3:27 pm

    I am Sharon Betzold, the wife of pilot from downed aircraft in Yellowstone NP. I would like to extend a heartfelt "Thank You" to all whose efforts made possible the rescue of my husband and stepson this morning. Their selfless service to the community as a whole and specifically to my husband and stepson should be applauded.You won't be forgotten. Thank you again.

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