Search and recovery efforts to find the private plane that went missing over Lake Erie during the night on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016, that were to begin on Saturday, December 31, began instead at dawn on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017 due to weather and water conditions unfavorable to search teams on Saturday.
Despite the efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Air Force to find and rescue Fleming and the plane’s other five occupants, no debris or survivors were found, causing the Coast Guard to call off the search-and-rescue mission and change instead to search-and-recovery mode on Saturday, December 31.
With the Coast Guard calling off the rescue operations, the City of Cleveland became responsible to the recovery operation. Dive teams were assembled on Saturday, but the weather and water conditions made it unsafe for the sonar-equipped boats to be on the water.
Sunday, January 1 dawned a milder day in Cleveland and on Lake Erie, allowing the search-and-recovery efforts to begin, with personnel from the Cleveland Fire Department, the U.S. Coast Guard and Underwater Marine Contractors manning five boats, four of which are equipped with sonar to aid in finding the missing plane. The fifth boat is being used to along the shoreline to look for any debris that might have washed ashore. The Cleveland Division of Police are assisting in the search with the use of a helicopter.
The Cessna Citation 525 plane, registered to and piloted by John T. Fleming of Columbus, Ohio, went missing shortly after its takeoff from Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio about 11:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, December 29. No distress signals were issued by the pilot prior to it disappearing from radar. The tracking service, FlightAware, logged only three pings from the aircraft prior to its disappearance, with the third ping indicating a rapid loss of altitude for the plane.
A bag recovered on Sunday in Bratenahl near Shoreby Club Harbor is having its contents investigated by the Cleveland Police to learn if it is connected to the missing plane and its occupants.
In addition to the pilot, John T. Fleming, the others onboard the plane include his wife, Suzanne, their teenage sons, Andrew and John (Jack), and a neighbor and his daughter who have not been publicly identified.
Authorities are asking the public to contact the non-emergency number of the Cleveland Police (216-621-1234) or Burke Lakefront Airport (216-781-6411) if they see or know anything that may assist in the search and recovery efforts.
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