- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 17, 2004

SANDUSKY, Ohio (AP) — A single-engine plane carrying nine persons crashed yesterday in snowy weather shortly after taking off from an island in Lake Erie, the U.S. Coast Guard said. There was no immediate word on whether anyone survived.

A helicopter found the wreckage about 7:30 p.m. about a mile west of Ontario’s Pelee Island, Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Christopher Pasciuto said. The crew did not immediately see any signs of life, he said.

The helicopter was unable to land because of safety concerns, Lt. Pasciuto said. Ice has formed on Lake Erie, but the lake has not iced over.

The Georgian Airways plane was bound for Windsor, Ontario, across the border from Detroit, and crashed about 20 miles north of Sandusky.

Officials with the Canadian Coast Guard, the Ontario Provincial Police and Transport Canada — Canada’s equivalent of the Federal Aviation Administration — did not immediately return calls for comment.

The region has been locked in bitterly cold weather, with temperatures in the 20s yesterday in northern Ohio. The water temperature in Lake Erie, where waves were running 3 feet to 5 feet, was about 33 degrees.

Bob Wernecke, a pilot who flies between Ohio’s resort islands just south of Pelee Island, said he made six flights during the day before deciding about 5 p.m. that the low cloud cover and freezing rain had made conditions unsafe.

“It’s nasty,” he said by phone from Put-In-Bay. “It’s freezing drizzle, kind of bad.”

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