Missing Bucklin Plane Found in WY; No Survivors

The Nerdery President and cofounder Luke Bucklin and three of his sons died instantly on October 25 when the plane that Bucklin was piloting crashed into the side of a steep Wyoming mountainside.

A weeklong search for Minnesota businessman Luke Bucklin and three of his sons came to a tragic end on November 1 when searchers found his small plane in the rugged mountains of western Wyoming but discovered that there were no survivors.

Bucklin, 40, was president and cofounder of Bloomington-based Sierra Bravo Corporation, which recently changed its name to The Nerdery.

Bucklin had been piloting the plane, a four-seat single-engine Mooney 201, amid a snowstorm when it lost contact with ground control at about 3 p.m. Central Standard Time on October 25. Bucklin and his sons-14-year-old twins Nick and Nate, and 12-year-old Noah-had been returning to Minneapolis from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, after a vacation.

Searchers found the plane at an elevation of 11,000 feet about one mile east of its last known location-an area near Indian Pass in the Fitzpatrick Wilderness Area of the Shoshone National Forest.

Upon finding the plane, search team spokesman Ernie Over said that the plane had crashed into the side of a steep mountainside and that “the crash was not survivable.” All four of the plane's passengers died on impact.

Nine aircraft and 13 ground teams were involved in the seven-day search for Bucklin's plane. Over said that the rugged terrain and inclement weather, which hampered efforts to track down the plane, made it one of the area's most difficult search and rescue efforts to date.

On November 8, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report that shortly before the crash, Bucklin told air traffic controllers that he was unable to maintain altitude due to wind currents that were pushing down his plane. At about 1:41 p.m. on October 25, Bucklin radioed in, saying that he “was encountering a light chop and a trace of rime icing.” Rime icing-a granular deposit-is similar to what builds up in older models of freezers, and it can diminish a plane's lift and performance. At about 1:52 p.m., the plane was picked up by radar for the last time at an altitude of 13,300 feet.

Following news of Bucklin's death, The Nerdery's then-Vice President of Operations Michael Derheim wrote on the company's blog: “We will sorely miss Luke as our leader. But we'll miss him far more as our friend. Everyone who knew Luke came away better for it. . . . While always a programmer at heart, Luke's entrepreneurial spirit touched every facet of our business. Everyone here revered him for his personable leadership style and good nature.”

In early November, The Nerdery announced that Derheim had been named CEO. The Nerdery-which Bucklin, Derheim, and Senior Vice President of Software Development Mike Schmidt cofounded in 2003-employs more than 100 people and is among the state's largest Web development and design companies based on its Web revenue, which totaled $8.6 million in 2009.