Three adults and three children were on board a plane that went missing on it’s way to the Ohio State University airport. The Coast Guard says weather conditions are making search efforts difficult.
CLEVELAND — As search and rescue crews searched Lake Erie for a small plane that disappeared overnight shortly after takeoff from Cleveland, Coast Guard officials are hopeful the six passengers could be found alive, the agency said Friday.
The Cessna Citation 525 aircraft departed Burke Lakefront Airport in Ohio at 10:50 p.m. ET on Thursday. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, its intended destination was Ohio State University in Columbus, but the plane was not visible on radar. The plane disappeared shortly after takeoff about 2 miles over Lake Erie.
At a morning news conference, Capt. Michael Mullen, the chief of response for the Ninth Coast Guard District, said the crews searching for the plane are in search-and-rescue mode, not recovery mode, as they ply waters that are about 50 feet deep.
“We’re very hopeful. We will be very hopeful up until the point that we have to turn the search off and we switch over to assisting with recovery,” he said.
Authorities have “faint hints” but no strong pulse from an emergency locating transmitter, a beacon that could help find the plane, Mullen said.
Burke Lakefront Airport officials confirmed there were six passengers on board the plane, including three adults and three children. The passengers went to the Cleveland Cavaliers game at Quicken Loans Arena.
“We’re very hopeful. We will be very hopeful up until the point that we have to turn the search off and we switch over to assisting with recovery.”
Capt. Michael Mullen, chief of response for the Ninth Coast Guard District
Searchers found no signs of debris Friday, but it is still unknown why the plane vanished from radar.
The Coast Guard said it was notified about the missing plane by air traffic control sometime after 11 p.m.
Coast Guard official James Cox in Buffalo said the plane is kept in a hangar at the Ohio State University airfield, but those aboard the aircraft aren’t affiliated with the university. The plane is registered to Maverick Air and operated by Superior Beverage Group.
Authorities haven’t publicly identified the pilot or the passengers, but the Columbus Dispatch identified the pilot as the chief executive of a Columbus beverage company, citing the CEO’s father.
The newspaper reported the plane’s pilot was Superior Beverage Group CEO John T. Fleming, 46, of Dublin, Ohio, said Fleming’s father, John W. Fleming.
The Dispatch also said John T. Fleming’s wife, Suzanne, 46, and their two sons, John R., 15, and Andrew, 14, were on board with a neighbor and a neighbor’s daughter.
The Coast Guard said an air crew from Detroit and an air crew from Canada were aiding in the search. A helicopter was used overnight to search because the weather — including snow squalls and high seas — prevented a boat search.
Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow WKYC-TV on Twitter: @wkyc
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