Bad weather prevents search of Lake Erie for plane carrying six people
US Coast Guard (AFP)

Bad weather prevented a recovery team on Saturday from searching for the remains of six people presumed to have died when their small plane crashed into Lake Erie shortly after taking off, officials said.


Divers had been set to plunge into frigid Lake Erie on Saturday to look for the aircraft and the remains of its occupants, officials said.

But the office of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson later said in a statement, "weather and water conditions do not allow for recovery efforts on Lake Erie" on Saturday.

The statement did not give the specific conditions hampering the search and a representative for the mayor's office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Lake Erie had rain and temperatures of around 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

"Weather and water conditions are expected to accommodate search and recovery efforts beginning at first light (on Sunday) morning," the statement from the mayor's office said.

The plane, a Cessna Citation 525, dropped off the radar shortly after departing on Thursday night from Burke Lakefront Airport on the shore of Lake Erie north of downtown Cleveland, officials said.

It was carrying John Fleming, 46, president and chief executive of Ohio-based liquor distribution company Superior Beverage Group, his wife, Sue, their sons Jack and Andrew, and two close friends, company officials have said.

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for the Cessna on Friday and Jackson at a news conference on Saturday morning said the six people on board were presumed to have died.

Three vessels, including a Cleveland Division of Fire boat and a Coast Guard vessel, will be used in the search on Sunday, the city's statement said.

Khalid Bahhur, Burke Lakefront Airport commissioner, told reporters at the news conference that following a similar crash into Lake Erie in 2008, it took several days to recover the aircraft.

The Cessna had been bound for Ohio State University Airport and disappeared after flying about two miles (three km) over the lake, U.S. Coast Guard Chief of Response Michael Mullen told a news conference on Friday.

Officials have not said what might have caused the plane to go down.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash, officials said.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis Editing by W Simon and Nick Zieminski)