Divers slowly search bottom of Lake Erie for missing plane


CLEVELAND (AP) — Divers guided by an underwater detector searched part of the bottom of Lake Erie on Friday for a plane that disappeared a week ago near Cleveland with six people aboard, officials said as the effort resumed in extremely cold weather.

Transmissions from a locator beacon detector helped narrow the search area, but underwater visibility was only a few inches, so divers were moving slowly as they followed the signals and felt around the lake bottom, searchers said in a statement.

It could take hours to search a small area, they said. Daytime temperatures have been in the teens throughout the search, and Friday’s noon reading in Cleveland was 14 degrees with a wind chill of 3. The search by air and along the shore for debris continued as weather permitted.

Searchers said previously they were looking for the cockpit voice recorder in an underwater area about 125 feet by 325 feet. They have found some debris consistent with the missing Cessna 525 Citation, which vanished shortly after takeoff from Burke Lakefront Airport on Dec. 29.

The plane was piloted by John T. Fleming, the president of a Columbus beverage distribution company. The passengers were his wife, Suzanne Fleming; their teenage sons, Jack and Andrew; and two neighbors, Brian Casey and his 19-year-old daughter, Megan Casey, a freshman nursing student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

They were returning to Columbus after attending a Cleveland Cavaliers game in downtown Cleveland.

The Flemings’ relatives have scheduled calling hours Sunday afternoon and a memorial service for Monday morning at a church in Canfield, near Youngstown. A second memorial is planned Tuesday afternoon at a church in Delaware, north of Columbus.

The families of Fleming and his wife issued a statement thanking supporters for their concern and kindness. It read: “The families are touched by the tremendous outpouring of support and continue to be grateful to all the agencies and individuals who have aided in the search and recovery efforts, now in the capable hands of the City of Cleveland.”