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Saturday, April 19, 2014
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Published: 4/8/2013

Friends, family of missing kayakers search Sandusky Bay shore

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

SANDUSKY - Families and friends of Jonathan Francis and Viola Francis today walked the shore of Sandusky Bay in search of the father and daughter who have been missing since Saturday.

Sheila McClain, who is the girlfriend of Mr. Francis, said a person in their group found a paddle believed to be from one of the kayaks in the water on the north side of the bay, near where the kayaks washed up on Sunday.

Mr. Francis, 30, and Viola, 12, remained missing today. They launched their kayaks at Crystal Rock about 3 p.m. Saturday near the southern shore of the Sandusky Bay to take a two-hour trip to the Thomas Edison Bridge and back.

Ms. McClain said more than two dozen people, mostly friends and families of Mr. Francis, combed the north shore of the bay between Lightner Road and the Edison Bridge for most of the day.

Mr. Francis' sister, Lisa Beck, was among those looking for her brother and niece. She said two boats, possibly belonging to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources or the Erie County Sheriff's Office, were in the bay.

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended search operations with a boat and helicopter about 5:30 p.m. Sunday and didn't have plans to return to continue looking Monday.

Ms. McClain said she was told today that one witness saw her boyfriend and his daughter in the bay about 4:15 pm. heading to the Edison Bridge and another person saw them about 30 minutes later about 200 yards from the bridge, apparently returning to home.

Ms. McClain lives with Mr. Francis and his daughter about a block from the bay, near where the kayaks launched. She reported they were missing at 5:20 a.m. Sunday.

She said today that she stayed up through the night in hopes that her boyfriend would call to tell her that he was safe.

"Why I didn't call? Maybe I was in self-denial," she said. "I can't explain. I keep wondering why this had to happen."

Mr. Francis got the kayaks for Christmas. Family members said he had been out on the water in the kayak once before. Neither Mr. Francis nor his daughter took life jackets with them on the trip, even though there were some at Ms. McClain's home.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199


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