Search for missing plane to resume Saturday as recovery mission

Search for missing plane to resume Saturday as recovery mission

DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The Coast Guard has called off its search for a plane that went missing Thursday night somewhere over Lake Erie near Cleveland.

The city of Cleveland will continue the search Saturday morning, but as a recovery mission rather than a rescue mission.

If debris is found at any point, the Coast Guard will rejoin the search, which has already spanned about 20 hours and 128 square miles of Lake Erie.

Coast Guard officials say search and rescue cases are suspended with extreme care and deliberation, and only after a search area is located and saturated with a maximum number of resources.

The Coast Guard only performs search and rescue missions, not recovery, so that's why the city has stepped in. Police officers were already out assisting with shoreline searches Friday.

The plane went missing shortly after leaving Burke Lakefront Airport Thursday night. It was a Cessna Citation 525 aircraft. The Coast Guard says that the plane can seat 11 people.

Investigators say 18 seconds after takeoff, the aircraft climbed 3,100 feet, and 16 seconds later made a quick descent to 2,000 feet.

Larry Rohl, a pilot for 58 years, owns T&G Flying Club at Burke. He says the view can get pretty dark over the lake at night.

"Everything is black, you don't see the horizon," he said. "When we turn out over the lake, we don't see that, so we immediately have to trust our instruments."

An experienced helicopter pilot says it is "unlikely" that the plane that disappeared from radar less than a minute after taking off from Burke Lakefront Airport has landed somewhere else.

Six people were on board -- three adults and three children. The pilot, John T. Fleming, is an Ohio-based beverage company executive.

Here is the statement from Joseph R. McHenry with Superior Beverage Group:

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.

Stay with Cleveland 19 News for updates. Reporters Shanice Dunning, Lacey Crisp, Alyson Bruner, Sara Goldenberg, Shelby Miller and anchor Tiffany Tucker contributed to this report.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that there were four adults and two children aboard the aircraft. There were three adults and three children aboard the aircraft.

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