Search Ongoing for Private Plane Missing Over Lake Erie

A small plane that departed Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio late Thursday night, Dec. 29, 2016, and its passengers are the subject of an ongoing search by U.S. and Canadian authorities.

Update January 3, 2016: Debris Washes Ashore, Search for Missing Plane Continues

Update 12/30/2016 2:15 p.m. EST: In a press conference held by the Coast Guard, officials say the crews looking for the missing plane and its passengers are in search-and-rescue mode rather than recovery mode. There are also “faint hints” of an emergency locating transmitter that could aid in finding the aircraft, but no strong pulse from that unit can be detected.

It is believed the small plane vanished from radar when it was approximately two miles offshore of the airport and over Lake Erie. Captain Michael Mullen of the U.S. Coast Guard explained that snow squalls, the darkness and higher seas made search efforts difficult through the night. Mullen also stated that it would have been the pilot’s responsibility to determine if conditions were safe for flying before takeoff.

John T. Fleming’s father has confirmed that his son was the pilot of the missing plane, with Fleming’s wife, two teenage sons, a neighbor and the neighbor’s daughter as passengers.

Update 12/31/2016: Coast Guard Ends Search for Plane Missing in Lake Erie

Search efforts for the Cessna Citation 525 plane are being hampered by weather conditions, particularly winds that make it difficult to search the choppy Lake Erie waters for either debris or passengers, neither of which have been sighted. Authorities are searching both by air and water to find the plane and its passengers in an area where the water is about 50 feet deep. The plane disappeared from radar shortly after its takeoff, providing authorities with an estimated search area.

The plane, licensed to the Superior Beverage Group and kept in a hangar at the airfield of Ohio State University, has been confirmed by authorities at Burke Lakefront Airport to be carrying three adults and three children who had attended the Cavaliers game. At take-off at 10:50 p.m. ET from the Cleveland airfield, the group’s destination was a return flight to Columbus, Ohio.

The pilot has been confirmed to be John T. Fleming, the CEO and president of the Superior Beverage Group, based in Columbus. Fleming’s father shared with the media that the Coast Guard believes the plane may have crashed into Lake Erie.

Authorities have no suspected cause of a crash at this time.

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