Search for Missing Plane Passengers Continues Overnight

The Coast Guard is continuing their search overnight and into Saturday morning for four missing plane passengers in Lake Michigan. The pilot, Jerry Freed from Alma, was rescued by boaters after being in the water for more than an hour. The small Cessna 206 took off from Alma on a medical flight. It was headed for Rochester, MN. It crashed about five miles off the shore of Ludington. The Coast Guard says the single engine plane lost all power. Freed was transporting Alma School Superintendent Don Pavlik and his wife Irene to a Minnesota hospital for cancer treatment. The Pavliks, co-pilot Earl Davidson and Dr. James Hall are still missing. Rescue crews are searching by air and on the water, but have yet to locate the wreckage of the plane. The state's underwater recovery team is also helping with deep-water sonar capabilities. Two salmon fishermen saw the plane go down around 10:15 Friday morning. “I just saw a boat flip, because I just saw the tail come end over end, it come out of the splash, and it took a moment for everything to click, and I told him–I saw a boat flip, no it was a plane,” Bill James, fisherman, said. James and his uncle Michael Blake rushed over to help the Coast Guard with the rescue efforts. “It was a tough thing to go through–you feel helpless,” Blake said. “You almost go into panic, I was shaking so bad, once you realize, what's going on, you're trying to hurry and keep your coordinates.” And the coordinates they relayed to the Coast Guard turned out to be a lifesaver for the pilot. A husband and wife on vacation from Illinois heard the call out on the water and found the pilot–alive. “We were about two miles from the site when my wife yelled there's a man in the water,” Randall Schmidt, boater, said. “I asked him when he was in the water, are you the pilot? And he said, 'yeah, I'm the pilot.'” Schmidt says Freed was cold and concerned for the others on board. “He said the other two people who got out with him, two men with life jackets on, and they got separated in the rough waters,” Schmidt said. “And he said the plane sank–he said it sank pretty quickly.” Schmidt says searching for anyone in the rough water was tough, but they knew what to look for. “It was a head above water, and that's what it was. The pilot said the helicopter flew right over him and never saw him,” Schmidt said. Meantime, the Coast Guard, DNRE and other boaters scoured the water for the other missing passengers. “It was tricky, because it was a lot of white on the water,” Blake said. “It was hard picking out anything at that point.” Other boaters, like charter Captain Mark Williams had the same problem. He says they will stay on the lookout. “We'll definitely be looking for them, because we'll be fishing in the vicinity,” Williams, Silver Addiction Charters, said. 9&10's Jodi Hathaway and photojournalist Joel Deaner were out on the search Friday and have the story.