Search Called Off for Missing Kayakers

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SANDUSKY, Ohio-- The search has been called off for two kayakers who disappeared on Lake Erie in Sandusky over the weekend.

"We are still considering this a missing persons case.  We hope that these folks do show up.  But unfortunately as time goes on, we have to prepare for what may be the worst," said Sheriff Paul Sigsworth, with the Erie County Sheriff's Office.

Jonathan Francis, 30, and his 12-year-old daughter, Viola, launched their kayaks from Crystal Rock and headed toward the Edison Bridge Saturday afternoon.

They never made it back.

"All we can do right now is comfort each other.  We've been doing a lot of praying that they be found," said Gwen Gwinner, Francis' mother.

There were tears and hugs along Crystal Rock as the family watched the water and waited for word Monday afternoon.

"They were very, very close.  Viola looked up to her dad.  He was like her hero.  She was his life," said Gwinner.

Search crews found two kayaks close to the shoreline in Ottawa County.

Deputies said neither were wearing life jackets. "John had kayaked this route before.  They were just going out for a short trip.  John was eager to be on the kayak," said Gwinner.

"The water was 39, 40 degrees, very very cold Saturday," said Sheriff Paul Sigsworth.

According to the Erie County sheriff, hypothermia sets in quickly at that water temperature.

And while authorities now shift from rescue to recovery, the family still holds a small glimmer of hope that Jonathan and Viola will be found.

"With the lake being so shallow, from what they tell me, it could take time.  But I want them to continue searching. We want some answers," said Gwinner.

Meantime, the community has set up a lighthouse along the shoreline at Crystal Rock to symbolize a beacon of hope.

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