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Small plane that went missing in 2012 found crashed in Yosemite

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A single-engine plane that vanished over Yosemite National Park last December during a winter storm was found crashed in the rugged high country, its pilot dead, a park spokesman said on Monday.

A hiker discovered the wreckage of the single-engine plane, which was largely intact, on Saturday near the park's remote Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, said Scott Gediman, a Yosemite Park ranger and spokesman.

Rangers hiked to the location on Sunday and positively identified the pilot as Nicol Wilson, who had been flying the 1966 Mooney M20F from Santa Barbara to the Mammoth Lakes Airport when he was reported missing on December 17, 2012.

Wilson's remains were removed from the crash scene and would be turned over to the Mariposa County Coroner for an autopsy, Gediman said, adding that the National Transportation Safety Board would conduct an investigation into the crash.

Authorities conducted an extensive search for Wilson, whose flight plan took him directly over Yosemite, at the time of the crash and again this year after suspending the operation during the winter season, Gediman said.

He said the plane was found above the timber line, at about 11,000 feet to 12,000 feet, a rocky area that few hikers reach during the winter season. The white plane blended in with snow on the ground, making it hard to see from the air.

Gediman said the plane would eventually be removed from its rocky perch, some of it by likely by hand and carried down the mountain by horses or mules, other parts hauled out by helicopter.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Gevirtz)