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By Phil Helsel

The U.S. Coast Guard said Friday it is suspending its search for six people aboard a plane that went missing over frigid Lake Erie shortly after taking off from Cleveland the night before.

"The decision to suspend a search is never easy," Coast Guard Capt. Michael Mullen said in a statement. "I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of those who lost loved ones during this tragedy."

Columbus-based Superior Beverage Group identified those aboard as its president and CEO John T. Fleming, his wife Sue, sons Jack and Andrew and two close friends.

The Cessna Citation jet left Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland at 10:57 p.m. Thursday after a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game and was headed for Columbus, but air traffic control officials lost contact with the aircraft a short time later, a spokesman for the airport said.

The Coast Guard said it would suspend the search at 7:30 p.m., and that officials on Saturday would hold a briefing to discuss recovery efforts.

The Coast Guard said the 20-hour search covered 128 square miles of Lake Erie, and involved a helicopter, a Coast Guard cutter based in Detroit and an HC-130 aircraft from the Coast Guard and another aircraft from the Royal Canadian Air Force.

There were waves of up to 15 feet and 30-knot winds at the time of the incident, the Coast Guard said.