The above photo displayed the U.S. Coast Guard Captain Michael Mullen, as he answered questions in Cleveland on Friday, December 30. On that day, there had been no debris discovered near Burke Lakefront Airport from the plane of John T. Fleming. Fleming’s plane lost contact after departing from the Lake Erie airport. However, by Monday, January 2, news of Fleming’s bag — which had been discovered Sunday, January 1 — began making the rounds online.
According to USA Today, Fleming’s bag was discovered on Sunday, even as the private plane that Fleming was piloting with a total of six people aboard — including Fleming — was still being located. According to the Chicago Tribune, the bag belonging to Fleming was found near the harbor of the Shoreby Club Newport Harbor, which is described as “an elegant lakefront meeting place” on the website of the 23-room mansion.
The fact that the USA Today headline reads “Missing pilot’s bag found at Cleveland club” is throwing some readers for a loop, since at first glance, it seems as though Fleming’s bag may have been found inside the club — leading some readers to suspect foul play. However, as reported by WKYC-TV, Fleming’s “bag was recovered earlier today near Shoreby Club Harbor in Bratenahl,” which sounds more like the bag washed ashore in a likely plane crash recovery.
As seen in the above photo from the Daily Mail, the bag belonging to Fleming and ID can be seen. A commentator named LotusBlossom from Cleveland wrote that his or her brother-in-law was the one who saw Fleming’s bag floating in the water.
“My BIL is the one who found the bag at Shoreby. He was walking on the docks and saw it floating in the water. He fetched and opened it and saw the ID with Mr. Fleming’s picture on it & called the police.”
Fleming was traveling home to Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday night after a Cleveland Cavaliers game, with five other people onboard when his Cessna Citation 525 dropped off the radar over Lake Erie. A search began — and was paused on Saturday because of inclement weather. As reported by The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the search continued on Sunday. Hailing from Dublin, Ohio, Fleming headed up the Superior Beverage Group, out of Columbus. It isn’t known how long Fleming had been flying, and how many flight hours Fleming had as a pilot, but that hasn’t stopped folks from speculating about everything from Fleming’s flight experience to the fact that a photo of Fleming toasting at a bar is being used in news reports.
Some of the reactions via social media can be read below.
Dennis R Sullivan: “Was the bag found in the water near the club? Or found INSIDE the club? Maybe at the bar??????”
Ronald Butler: “Having trouble understanding the headline?”
Desiree Kocis: “This is USA Today sensationalizing. The bag wasn’t found at a ‘club’ (a fancy country club, btw… not a bar). It was washed ashore, along with other items.”
Continued speculation over the length of time Fleming had his pilot’s license is being bandied about in the comments sections online. Certain commentators are calling the headline misleading because it doesn’t say that Fleming’s bag washed up on the shores of Lake Erie. And still other folks commenting in the wake of the likely tragedy are writing that Fleming should have hired someone to pilot the plane in his stead. Flying with family and friends aboard is being termed a distracting feat. Some are speculating and wondering if a sudden heart attack happened to Fleming and may have caused the plane to crash, or if the wind gusts that night felled the plane.
Either way, despite all the controversy in the comments section, plenty of sympathy is going out to the Fleming Family and those aboard the missing plane, along with their loved ones and friends.
[Featured Image by Tony Dejak/AP Images]