Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Police & Fire

Boaters spot 2 bodies in Erie County lake, bay

Girl, 12, her father, 30,were missing 3 weeks

SANDUSKY — Warmer weather leading to more boats on the water might have contributed to the recovery Friday of the bodies of father-daughter kayakers missing for almost three weeks.

A boater reported spotting a girl’s body at about 11:15 a.m. Friday in Lake Erie.

The Coast Guard based in Marblehead retrieved the body 30 minutes later, which was tentatively identified as Viola Francis, 12. Her body was found about six miles offshore, between Huron and Vermilion.

About three hours later, a fisherman in a boat found a second body more than a dozen miles away in Sandusky Bay.

The body, which was against a breakwall on the western side of the Cedar Point causeway, is believed to be that of Jonathan Francis, 30, of Sandusky, the girl’s father. A tentative identification was made based on jewelry and a tattoo.

The pair were last seen April 6, kayaking in Sandusky Bay’s southern shore. They were reported missing at 5:20 a.m. April 7 by Mr. Francis’ girlfriend, Sheila McClain.

“I loved him dearly,” she said Friday.

Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth said warmer temperatures might have aided the discoveries. “The more eyes on the water, the more likely somebody’s gonna see something,” he said.

He said it was not unusual that the bodies were miles apart. “The issue with water, especially with a body of water as large as Lake Erie is, since they disappeared, we’ve had a number of storms [and] strong winds. We’re kind of at the mercy of Mother Nature,” the sheriff said.

He said it was impossible for officials to predict where the bodies might be found. “We didn’t know exactly where they went in,” he said, adding a witness reported seeing them 200 yards west of the Edison Bridge about 4:30 p.m. April 6.

Sheriff Sigsworth said that area of water is uncertain. “There are generally very strong currents,” he said.

Two kayaks washed up on the bay’s north shore April 8, almost directly across from Crystal Rock, where it is believed they intended to go.

Lt. Justin Westmiller, a public affairs officer for the Coast Guard Sector Detroit, said the Coast Guard suspended its initial search about 5:30 p.m. April 7.

The Lucas County Coroner’s Office is to perform autopsies. “There’s no sign of any foul play,” Sheriff Sigsworth said. “It appears that there was some type of mishap or accident and they went in the water.”

Staff writer Vanessa McCray contributed to this report.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: or 419-724-6522, or on Twitter @KMcBlade.

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