BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Police announced Sunday afternoon that the search for missing police diver Craig Lehner has been suspended due to dangerous weather conditions.
Officer Lehner has been missing since early Friday afternoon. He was on a training dive with other members of the department's Underwater Recovery Team when a cable that connected Lehner to a boat either came unhooked or broke.
"We had a command meeting, we made a determination that the weather that we thought was going to pass, wasn't. We're looking 45 to 50 mile-per-hour gusts. So in the interest of safety, we have suspended the search for today," Lt. Jeff Rinaldo said.
Crews will resume the search at 7 a.m. on Monday.
"We had a very productive day, we were able to search a lot of areas," Rinaldo said.
The search had been concentrated in the area between the Peace Bridge and international train bridges Saturday. Police narrowed it down to that area using photos, footage from city surveillance cameras, and rope recovered in the water.
Rinaldo said Sunday morning that even after 40 dives on Saturday and with the use of sophisticated equipment, they couldn't confirm Officer Lehner was in that area, so the decision was made to move north.
The new search area has a weaker current and less debris underwater which could help teams search more quickly and more effectively, according to Lt. Rinaldo.
"It will allow us to be a lot more efficient in our searches as well as expedite the speed of how we can search areas. And it also allows our sonar and other devices that we are using to be more effective," said Lt. Rinaldo.
He classified the efforts as a search rather than a search and rescue. He stopped short of calling it a recovery mission.
"Everybody is heavy hearts and minds, but we have a job to do. We're just hoping to locate our brother," said Lt. Rinaldo.
He also said search crews are keeping an eye on the weather. Windy conditions and rain are expected later Sunday, and that could affect the search. He said crews will make a determination around 1 or 2 p.m. on how to move forward.
"The strength of this family is incredible. The mom, the sister, the friends, the family, the husband of the sister. That's what's driving us. They are extremely strong. They are extremely appreciative. They want to find their loved one as we do. That's our common goal," said Lt. Rinaldo.
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