Missing Ohio Plane, Pilot Located In Long Island Sound

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press Writer

MILFORD, Conn. (AP) - The wreckage of a private plane missing since Sunday night was located in Long Island Sound on Friday with the pilot, a Cleveland man, still inside.

Connecticut State Police said their marine emergency services unit found the single-engine Cessna in about 40 feet of water off Point Lookout.

"It's intact, and there's an occupant," said Milford fire Capt. Richard Mohr.

The family of the pilot, retired Cleveland police Capt. John Hageman, was notified, police said.

Divers planned to raise the wreckage later Friday, police said.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will investigate.

State police spokesman Sgt. Paul Vance said divers were taking turns working in the chilly waters of the Sound.

"It was a good, coordinated effort to bring closure to the family," Vance said.

The plane disappeared on approach Sunday evening to Sikorsky Memorial Airport.

Hageman, a professional flight instructor, was flying from Ohio to Connecticut to spend the New Year's holiday with friend Evelyn Sandor. They planned to later fly to her home in Florida.

Hageman was nearing Sikorsky Airport about 6 p.m. Sunday when he told an airport official he could not see the runway. The aircraft disappeared from the airport's radar at 6:08 p.m.

Two eyewitnesses in two different parts of town reported seeing what they first believed was a shooting star but now think may have been the missing aircraft, police said.

The Coast Guard led rescue efforts from Sunday through Tuesday, when it suspended the search because cold water temperatures would have made survival unlikely.

Three of Hageman's brothers and a nephew flew from Ohio to Connecticut this week. Family members said Thursday they had come to grips with the fact that the 54-year-old pilot was probably dead.

"At this point we know it's a recovery effort, not a rescue effort," brother Jim Hageman said.

Jim Hageman and other family members described John Hageman as a flight instructor with 12 years experience who could fly in any condition.

"That's what baffles our family," said Jim Hageman. "We can't understand how this could have happened."

Jim Hageman, a fire captain in Cleveland, traveled to Connecticut with his brothers, Jeff and Dan, also Cleveland firefighters, and a nephew, Patrick Hageman of the Coast Guard.

Patrick Hageman said that his uncle was an expert pilot.

"I've been up in the air with him. He was meticulous about safety," he said.

Firefighters in Cleveland are rallying behind the family, said Michael O'Malley, a firefighter there.

"I don't know that there's a coordinated effort at this time, but we've let them know we'll do whatever we can to help this family," he said.

The Hageman family is a huge Irish-German clan with many members who are police officers and firefighters. They are well known in the Cleveland area, said Jeanne Hageman, John Hageman's sister-in-law.

"John was a great guy, he would do anything for you," she said.

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