Search for plane that disappeared over Lake Erie with Dublin residents aboard turns into recovery effort

CLEVELAND, OH (WCMH/AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard says it’s suspending search-and-rescue efforts for a plane that went missing over Lake Erie near Cleveland with six people on board to allow the city to begin recovery efforts. The Coast Guard is no longer expecting to find anyone alive.

The Columbus-bound Cessna Citation 525 departed Burke Lakefront Airport late Thursday night with three children and three adults aboard and vanished from radar about 2 miles over the lake. Why remains unclear.

City officials and the Coast Guard have scheduled a press conference for 10am on Saturday.

CREDIT: Fleming family via NBC News.
CREDIT: Fleming family via NBC News.

One of the people on the plane was Columbus-based Superior Beverage Group President and CEO John T. Fleming. His wife Sue and sons Jack and Andrew were also aboard, according to Superior Beverage Group.

Jack is a sophomore at Olentangy Liberty High School, and Andrew attended the Ohio State School for the Blind. Delaware County Special Olympics told NBC4 Andrew is one of their athletes.

Joseph McHenry, executive vice president of Superior Beverage Group, released the following statement Friday afternoon:

We have learned that our valued colleague and leader John T. Fleming, President and Chief Executive Officer of Superior Beverage Group, his wife Sue, sons Jack and Andrew, and two close friends were involved in an aircraft accident near Cleveland Thursday night. While search and rescue operations are under way, we are focusing our efforts on supporting the families involved. We are working closely with the proper authorities conducting the investigation. We appreciate the efforts of the first responders on the scene.

As we all await the results of the search and rescue efforts, our hearts are with John, his wife, their sons, and close friends on board, as well as with their loved ones and everyone in the Superior Beverage family.

This is a difficult day for us, and we appreciate the concern and thoughtfulness extended by so many.

The other two passengers have not been identified.

Searchers had found no sign of any debris or the people aboard the plane as of Friday morning, the agency said. Coast Guard official James Cox in Buffalo, New York, also said no emergency beacon had been detected.

The US Coast Guard is halting the search at 7:30 pm for the missing plane in Lake Erie and will start again at daybreak.

The waters in the search area are about 50 feet deep, the Coast Guard said, and the 12-14 foot waves and 30-35mph winds along with occasional flurries are making the search difficult.

The plane left the airport at 10:50 p.m. Thursday, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The Coast Guard has said it was notified about the missing plane by air traffic control around 11:30 p.m.

The plane was headed to Ohio State University Airport northwest of downtown Columbus. Cox said the plane is kept at a hangar at the airfield, but the six people aboard the aircraft aren’t affiliated with OSU.

Burke Lakefront Airport officials told WKYC the six passengers had been in Cleveland to attend a Cavaliers’ game at Quicken Loans Arena.

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