Crews search Lake Michigan, Lake Ann area for missing plane

This plane took off from Ontonagon and went missing with two people aboard Sunday before 8 p.m. Crews suspended their Lake Michigan search west of Frankfort Monday afternoon and continued scanning an area near Lake Ann.

FRANKFORT — U.S. Coast Guard crews on Monday called off their Lake Michigan search for a plane that went missing west of Frankfort on Sunday. But searchers kept scanning the Lake Ann area Monday for signs of a crash.

Officials from a Minneapolis regional control tower called U.S. Coast Guard personnel just before 8 p.m. Sunday after they lost contact with the single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza about 5 miles west of Frankfort after it took off from Ontonagon in the Upper Peninsula, said Master Chief Alan Haraf, of the 9th Coast Guard District Public Affairs Office.

The plane, which carried two men, appeared to have engine problems. Traffic control officers tried guiding them to the closest airport, in Frankfort, before the plane disappeared, according to Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel.

Haraf said Coast Guardsmen suspended their search at about noon Monday after crews searched the waters near Frankfort on Sunday and into Monday. Schendel estimated the water's depth in the vicinity at about 600 feet.

“There was no sign of any wreckage,” Haraf said.

But deputies and other searchers continued looking in the Lake Ann area Monday afternoon. A father called Monday morning and said his daughter heard a plane that was "having trouble" and she thought she heard a crash Sunday at about 7:30 p.m., Schendel said.

A Department of Homeland Security helicopter was deployed to scan the area, while other crews were expected to search on foot, he said. Schendel also asked Michigan State Police officials to send a helicopter.

"We want to explore all possibilities," Schendel said.

No signs of a crash had been found by Monday afternoon, he said.

The area crews searched — land and water — about 1,400 square miles, according to a Coast Guard press release.

Investigators do not know the identities of the two men in the plane, nor is it clear where they were flying to — they left no flight plan and no recent missing person reports have been filed, Schendel said.

Federal Aviation Administration officials released a preliminary statement reporting Frankfort as the plane's intended destination. But information from Flight Aware — a digital aviation company that operates the world's largest flight tracking and data system — shows the plane was headed for Monroe.

The plane is registered to Evergreen Exploration.

Aircrews from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City and Detroit; the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Trenton, Ontario; Customs and Border Protection; and Department of Natural Resources officers assisted.

Coast Guard stations in Frankfort and Manistee also launched boats for the search effort.

See www.Record-Eagle.com for updates.