City of Cleveland officials announced Saturday morning that the search for the plane missing over Lake Erie since Thursday night is now a recovery operation.
The Coast Guard suspended its search for a missing plane with six people from Dublin, Ohio aboard that has been out of contact since Thursday evening, shortly after takeoff from Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport.
"The decision to suspend a search is never easy," said Capt. Michael Mullen, chief of response for the Coast Guard 9th District. "I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of those who lost loved ones during this tragedy."
According to the FAA, the aircraft's intended destination was The Ohio State University in Columbus, but the small plane disappeared shortly after takeoff about two miles offshore over Lake Erie and was not visible on radar. The plane, registered to Maverick Air and operated by Superior Beverage Group, is kept in a hangar at The Ohio State University airfield.
Burke Lakefront Airport officials confirmed that there were six passengers on board the plane. They had gone to the Cleveland Cavaliers' game at Quicken Loans Arena
Starting today (Saturday), the City of Cleveland is going to be the lead agency on search and recovery. Private divers are also searching Lake Erie. The command center for the search will be at Burke Lakefront Airport.
According to Fred Szabo, interim director of the Department of Port Control, Great Lakes Towing -- a salvage company that handled a similar plane wreck in 2008 -- is meeting with the search party Saturday morning. They planned to send a ship with sonar out onto Lake Erie to the spot where the plane was last spotted on radar, about 2 miles offshore.
In an update at 2 p.m. Saturday, Mayor Frank Jackson said "Weather and water conditions do not allow for recovery efforts on Lake Erie today. The City of Cleveland has been in contact with the family in regards to all search and recovery efforts."
"Weather and water conditions are expected to accommodate search and recovery efforts beginning at first light tomorrow morning (Sunday)."
"Unified Command has determined that three vessels will be on the water tomorrow (Sunday). The vessels are from the Cleveland Division of Fire (a 27-foot boat), the U.S. Coast Guard (a 45-foot boat), and Underwater Marine Contractors (a 50-foot boat). Sonar technology will be used on all of these vessels."
The Coast Guard suspended its active search at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The U.S. Coast Guard will become involved again if there is some new information that would require them to do so.
The city is asking Northeast Ohio residents that, if they see anything in the water or on shore that resembles plane wreckage, they’re asked to call Cleveland police at 216-621-1234 or Burke Lakefront Airport at 216-781-6411 immediately.
According to a release from the Coast Guard, its search lasted 20 hours and covered more than 128 square miles of Lake Erie. It included Coast Guard crews aboard an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, an HC-130 aircraft and the Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay, as well as an aircrew aboard a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130 from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ontario.
Columbus and Glenwillow-based Superior Beverage Group confirmed the company's CEO and his family were in the aircraft on its website with the following statement:
"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."