Search suspended for two missing kayakers, father and daughter, in Lake Erie

SANDUSKY, Ohio - The Coast Guard and Erie County Sheriff have suspended the search Sunday night for two kayakers missing in Lake Erie.

Jonathan Francis, 30, and 12-year-old daughter Viola Francis left from Crystal Rock late Saturday afternoon.

The man's girlfriend reported to authorities Sunday that they have not returned.

The Erie County Sheriff said the empty kayaks have been located at the North Shore of Sandusky, in Ottawa County, but the search continues for the man and his daughter.

"His girlfriend actually had no idea that he was even going out," said Erie County Chief Deputy Jared Oliver, "they just purchased the kayaks recently.  They decided to take them out for a try and I don't think they really had any intentions of going out in the open water ... but unfortunately they did."

Oliver told NewsChannel5 the Erie County Sheriff's Office launched its own missing persons investigation as the Coast Guard continued their search Saturday.

On the coast, local fire departments were also assisting in a search by foot.  When their search ended, neighbors picked-up the pursuit, walking the shores' rocks with binoculars in hand.

Keith Kreager, President of the Crystal Rock Land Owners Association told NewsChannel5, "We've really been all together.  I mean, everybody's been all together.  We're all out here watching, hoping, waiting just to see what's going on."

Officials said the kayakers were not wearing life jackets when they departed. 

Neighbors, showing support, put a small lighthouse on the small wooden platform where police say Jonathan and his daughter launched into the water.

"We just wanted to put a lighthouse up as a beacon of hope and a beacon of light for Jonathan and Viola to find their way home," said Jackie Griffin holding back tears.  Her husband said, "I just hope that they're in a place and I hope they're safe that they just cant get a hold of us."

Griffin described Francis as having a close relationship and bond with his teenage daughter.

Timothy Snyder, soon to be Viola Francis' step-father, told NewsChannel5, "I'm just kind of in a state of shock.  This is ain't something I'd ever thought I'd been dealing with.  I kind of really, really wish they would've been wearing life jackets, I know that," said Snyder before bowing his head.

Viola's uncle described the young teen to be artistic and close with her younger siblings. 

Coast Guard officials have not announced any plans to continue the water and air search Monday.

If you have any information, please call the Erie County Sheriff at (419) 625-7951.

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