CLEVELAND — Recovery efforts are expected to begin Sunday for a small plane carrying six people that disappeared over Lake Erie after taking off Thursday night from Cleveland's lakefront airport.
On Friday night, the U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for the twin-engine plane with six people from the Columbus suburb of Dublin aboard. They were traveling home from a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game, the pilot's father, John W. Fleming, told The Columbus Dispatch.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson expressed condolences Saturday to those who lost loved ones as the city took over from the U.S. Coast Guard after a 128-square-mile search ended in disappointment. A dive team was called in to begin the preparations, but by afternoon officials said weather and water conditions would not allow for divers to get started until the next morning.
John T. Fleming, chief executive of a Columbus-based beverage distribution company, was piloting the plane. His wife, Suzanne; their two teenage sons, Andrew and John; nicknamed "Jack"; and two neighbors whose names have not yet been released were aboard.
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"We're just in shock," John W. Fleming told the newspaper.
Tracking service FlightAware logged only three location pings for the Cessna Citation 525 aircraft after takeoff from Burke Lakefront Airport, and the last one indicated rapid altitude loss. Authorities said they received no distress signals from the pilot.
Cleveland officials expected three vessels, all equipped with sonar technology, to be on the water Sunday.
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Airport Commissioner Khalid Bahhur said such accidents are a rare occurrence for the airport.
A twin-engine Beechcraft Baron with one person aboard crashed into Lake Erie after taking off from Burke in 2008. Szabo recalled search efforts to recover the body of the pilot took five or six days.
The same company that handled the 2008 crash, Great Lakes Towing, is coordinating the salvage efforts using vessels with sonar. The safety of the divers and others involved in the recovery will be weighed as the effort proceeds, he said.
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"We're going to do everything possible," Bahhur said. "Like I said, the boat's in the water right now and the dive team is preparing themselves to go out. It's going to be on a day-to-day basis."
The aircraft took off westward Thursday from the airport then turned north across the lake, according to the tracking service flightradar24.com. The departure procedure at Burke could take an aircraft over the lake before turning south toward a destination, said Capt. Michael Mullen, chief of response for the Coast Guard 9th District.
The plane, which had made the roughly half-hour trip from Columbus earlier in the day, was registered to a limited liability company under the same Columbus address as Superior Beverage Group, the company where Fleming was president and chief executive.
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The Federal Aviation Administration said the Cessna Citation 525 plane left Burke at 10:50 p.m. ET Thursday, and the Coast Guard said it was notified about the missing plane by air traffic control at Burke less than 30 minutes later.
The aircraft was headed to Ohio State University Airport, northwest of downtown Columbus.
Contributing: The Associated Press