Search Is Narrowed For Missing Ohio Pilot, Plane

By KATHRYN MASTERSON, Associated Press Writer

MILFORD, Conn. (AP) - State police and this city's fire department have narrowed the search for a missing Ohio pilot and his single-engine plane to a 4-square-mile area in Long Island Sound.

John M. Hageman, a retired Cleveland police captain, has been missing since Sunday evening, when he was supposed to land at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport.

Two boats began searching the area with sonar devices Thursday after officials used radar reports and eyewitness accounts to determine the probable place where the plane went down, said police Officer Vaughan Dumas.

Hageman's three brothers and a nephew arrived here from Ohio on Thursday morning to file a missing person's report, Vaughan said.

The brothers -- Jeff, Dan and Jim -- are all Cleveland firefighters. Fire Capt. Richard Mohr said that they had not asked to go out on the search with the fire department.

No debris or wreckage from the plane has been found.

The plane disappeared from Sikorsky Airport's radar at 6:08 p.m. Sunday after Hageman, an experienced pilot and flight instructor, said that he could not see the runway.

Two eyewitnesses reported seeing what they first believed was a shooting star, but now think may have been the missing plane, police said.

The U.S. Coast Guard led rescue efforts from Sunday through Tuesday, when it suspended the search because cold temperatures would have made survival unlikely if the pilot had landed in the water.

Mohr said that searching a 2-mile-by-2-mile area of water is a painstakingly slow job that will take at least three days. Divers are prepared to enter Long Island Sound if sonar picks up images of the plane.

"We're looking at a large parking lot, trying to find a penny on your hands and knees, blindfolded," Mohr said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)