Search fails to turn up police diver
Canadian law enforcement and emergency personnel continued over the weekend to help their U.S. counterparts in a search operation for a diver from the Buffalo Police Department who went missing in the Niagara River.
Shortly before 1 p.m. Friday, authorities in the U.S. were notified an officer conducting a training exercise with the recovery unit for the police force was missing, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
A number of agencies on both sides of the river searched Friday about 10 hours for the officer, who Buffalo Police later identified as 34-year-old Craig Lehner. They resumed the operation Saturday morning, and continued through Sunday before it was called off for the day after the weather made it unsafe for crews.
A search is set to resume Monday morning.
Fort Erie Fire Department arrived on the scene to assist about 2 p.m. on Friday, and had two rescue boats in the water with four firefighters aboard each, said chief Ed Melanson.
Niagara Regional Police and several agencies from across the border also had vessels in the river to assist.
“We’re assisting, not necessarily with the search, but the securing of the area,” Melanson told Postmedia on Saturday.
“There’s boats here with sonar and camera capability, so … our boats are being used mostly to keep traffic away from the search area.”
He said Fort Erie officials were there for seven hours on Friday, and were back Saturday when the search resumed about 7 a.m.
“We will be here until they need us, or don’t need us. There is a lot (of help) here. It is an all-hands-on-deck search. Grand Island fire is here. The sheriff’s department is here. Buffalo fire has boats in the water. RCMP. Niagara Regional Police. A lot of assets are here doing good work. It’s in a very difficult spot, that’s the problem, and the water is so fast here.”
Melanson said although Canada and the United States are two different countries, they share the Niagara River.
“We’re here to support them in every and any way that we can, and if we need them one day, I’m sure it will be reciprocated. As long as they need us, we’ll be here.”
Crews began the search on Friday aboard a 45-foot response boat.
While searching it was discovered “the tender cable had parted,” a coast guard news release said. The cable attaches to the diver’s suit. The diver’s secondary dive tanks were recovered on the water’s surface, the release said.
Lehner joined the police force in 2008.
He is a member of the canine unit and recently went through the Niagara Regional Police canine training course with his German shepherd Shield. The pair were at NRP headquarters in Niagara Falls last December for a canine graduation ceremony. Shield was named after a Buffalo police officer killed in the line of duty.
— with files from Kris Dube, Karena Walter, Postmedia News