CLEVELAND (AP) — A University of Wisconsin-Madison freshman and her father were among six people aboard a plane that disappeared over Lake Erie as the group was returning from a Cleveland Cavaliers game, the school said Monday as search crews continue to hunt for the aircraft.
Megan Casey, 19, of Powell, Ohio, and her father, Brian, were returning from the NBA game in a plane piloted by their neighbor late Thursday when the aircraft suddenly lost altitude about 2 miles out and vanished from radar, the school and authorities said.
Megan Casey was in a sorority and was pursuing a career in nursing, the university said. The university released a statement from the Casey family calling the father and daughter “loving, caring, remarkable individuals.”
“Our family greatly appreciates the dedicated efforts of the rescue and recovery teams, and we are especially thankful for the outpouring of support thoughts and prayers from family, friends and the community,” the statement reads.
The plane and its occupants haven’t yet been found, but emergency officials have been searching for them by air, shore and water.
A bag that washed ashore near a private harbor in Bratenahl, a small lakeside community outside Cleveland, was confirmed as coming from the plane, authorities said Monday. There have also been multiple reports of debris washing ashore east of Burke Lakefront Airport, where the plane took off. The other debris hadn’t been verified as coming from the Cessna 525 Citation.
John T. Fleming, chief executive of a Columbus-based beverage distribution company, was piloting the aircraft. His wife, Sue, and their two teenage sons, Jack and Andrew, were also aboard.
The aircraft was headed to Ohio State University Airport, northwest of downtown Columbus.
The city of Cleveland said there were light winds and fairly calm waters Monday for seven vessels and four dive teams searching waters 35 to 45 feet deep. The search grid area is some 2.5 miles from east to west along the shoreline and 2 miles north to south into the lake.
The city said Monday that caution tape along the shoreline is a precautionary measure that doesn’t mean items from the plane have been found in the area.
“The search and recovery process can take a long time,” the city said.
The U.S. Coast Guard and crews from Cleveland city agencies, the cities of Akron and Toledo, Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources, New York State Police and Underwater Marine Contractors are involved in the search.
The Coast Guard began searching the air after being notified soon after the plane’s disappearance. High waves and blustery conditions prevented smaller Coast Guard boats from the Cleveland area from deploying Thursday night. A 140-foot Coast Guard cutter joined a search that covered 128 square miles of the lake on Friday.
Weather and water conditions didn’t allow for recovery efforts to begin Saturday, but crews searched for the plane all day Sunday and Monday.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.