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John Fleming & Family: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

An Ohio beverage company CEO died in a plane crash over Lake Erie with his family and neighbors while returning from a basketball game in a Cessna Citation 525 plane.

John T. Fleming, his wife, Sue, and their teenage sons were on the plane, as were a neighbor and his daughter. The plane was heading for Columbus, Ohio when it disappeared. The neighbors were identified as Brian Casey and his daughter, Megan, 19, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student studying nursing.

Altogether, the plane carried six people when it disappeared. A bag has now been found from the plane, and all are presumed lost.

On January 6, authorities announced that “Divers recovered the cockpit voice recorder, pieces of debris and possible human remains” from the airplane, reported CNN.

The family was from Dublin, Ohio.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. The Flemings Were Returning From a Basketball Game

John Fleming and his, wife, Suzanne, the neighbors, and the Flemings’ sons, Jack and Andrew, had taken the plane to see a basketball game. Suzanne Fleming was 46, John (Jack) was 15, and Andrew was 14. “The group was in Cleveland to attend the Cleveland Cavaliers’ game,” reported WKYC-TV.

NBC4i reported that “Jack is a sophomore at Olentangy Liberty High School…Delaware County Special Olympics told NBC4 Andrew is one of their athletes.”

The Columbus Post-Dispatch reported that “the family and neighbors were in Cleveland to watch the Cavaliers game against the Boston Celtics on Thursday night as a treat for the holidays.”


2. The Plane Appeared to Lose Altitude

The plane “quickly lost altitude” after taking off from a Cleveland, Ohio airport, reported the Associated Press.

John Fleming, 46, was piloting the airplane, and it vanished about two miles out over Lake Erie, said the AP. The AP said a flight tracking service noticed only three pings from the plane and “the last one indicated rapid altitude loss.”

Fleming’s father told the news media that his son was an experienced pilot (he updated his pilot’s license in 2015, reported WKYC). 10TV reported that “the aircraft took off westward from Burke, then turned north across the lake.”

The plane took off at 10:50 p.m. December 29 for the Ohio State University in Columbus, ‘where the plane is housed at the airfield hangar,” according to WKYC.


3. Fleming Runs a Well-Known Beverage Company in Ohio

Superior Beverage Company’s website describes the company as providing “Ohioans with the finest beverages in the state, with roots that date back to 1922.”

“With over 650 associates, we service 37 counties in Northeast and Central Ohio. Superior Beverage Group represents a world-class portfolio of over 500 wine, beer and non-alcoholic beverage brands. Superior delivers to over 12,000 retailers with unsurpassed customer service,” the website says.

The company released a statement that read in part, “We have learned that our valued colleague and leader John T. Fleming, President and Chief Executive Officer of Superior Beverage Group, his wife Sue, sons Jack and Andrew, and two close friends were involved in an aircraft accident near Cleveland Thursday night. While search and rescue operations are under way, we are focusing our efforts on supporting the families involved. We are working closely with the proper authorities conducting the investigation. We appreciate the efforts of the first responders on the scene.”


4. The Coast Guard Now Says Survivors Are Unlikely

As of the morning of December 30, rescuers had found no signs of wreckage from the plane and had not located an emergency beacon, reported NBC4i.

However, the U.S. Coast Guard was planning to suspend its searching the evening of December 30. As the night ended, hopes started to dissipate.

Rescuers searched all Thursday night in 50-foot water, reported the Columbus Post Dispatch.

By December 31, the six were presumed dead, and divers were looking for the plane’s wreckage.


5. Fleming Was Well Liked in Columbus

Tributes started pouring in on social media. One man wrote on Facebook, “This is a very sad way to end 2016. John Fleming was such a great family man, and business leader. My family personally worked and sold Fame Beverage to Superior Beverage Group 10 years ago. John and I worked almost daily for 6 months and we developed a very good relationship.”

Another woman wrote on Facebook, “This is a tremendous tragedy for the Dublin Irish Festival, for JDRF Central Ohio and, most importantly, the Fleming Family. Prayers for a miracle for this fantastic family.”

The Dublin, Ohio mayor said in a statement, “We are deeply saddened by this news,” said Mayor Greg Peterson. “Dublin City Council, City of Dublin staff and the Dublin Irish Festival family are keeping all of those on board the flight in our thoughts and prayers.” The statement said John Fleming “served as the 2008 Dublin Irish Festival Honorary Chair. He and his family are some of the Festival’s biggest fans and supporters.”

A man wrote, “This is terrible, terrible news about John Fleming of Superior Beverage. I just saw him last week Christmas shopping at Easton with our mutual friend (who) was trying to recruit John to come onto our Columbus Chamber Board.”

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25 comments

  1. Lot of nice things said about John Fleming. My condolences to his family and friends. Nothing In the news reports talks about his experience as a pilot flying a high performance executive jet. The weather was reported as less than optimal. How much experience did he have in the Jet? Did he have an instrument rating? Did icing conditions exist? Was it prudent to take off in the existing weather conditions? Did he have “GetHomeItis”?

    • You’re not flying that plane without IF Rating…and experience. I say let the officials ask the questions and answers will follow in their due time. In the mean time, human loss is all that needs our concerns.

    • All good questions. You can have your instrument rating and type rating but still not be current (flown 6 instrument approaches and additional experience requirements in the past 6 months) or is he night current meeting the night takeoff and landing requirements to carry passengers at night. Did he de-ice before takeoff and did other jets departing around the same time require de-iceing or report iceing conditions durring climb out? Where their any reports of moderate to severe turbulance by other aircraft in the area. Making the right turn over the lake at night and entering IFR conditions can be difficult for pilots with limited experience. Actually it can get the most experienced pilots pulse up for a moment until experience overcomes the sensations associated with flying into the black abyss.

      In regards to icing, any evidence of ice dissappears when the aircraft hits the water. Was the aircraft going through a configuration change when loss of control occured; past investigations have shown loss of control with ice on the wings when the wing configuration changes with flaps being raised after takeoff or flaps lowered for landing.

      Anytime there is an accident that lacks hard evidence (like a lack of digital flight recorder and or cockpit voice recorder) or loss of evidence (that occurs when an accident site is the bottom of lake Erie)the event tends to get put into the category of pilot error. This can sound harsh as the pilot departed with the best of intentions. When it comes down to accident investigation little weight is usually given to the pilots good intentions, love of family, character, past success or positive impact to their comunity. The NTSB and FAA will investigate all of this and publish their findings in a year or two. (Please excuse my spelling errors)

      Its very sad to see this happen to anyone. Thoughts and prayers with all who were impacted and the people putting themselves at risk in the rescue and now recovery effort.

    • The only comments that should be left here are condolences. It is inappropriate to discuss his flying experience or his qualifications in the comment section of this article. Discuss it away from the internet. Have some compassion because if their or friends read this, it is hurtful. Gossip offline.

  2. As a professional airline pilot for over 30 years, as well as an aviation accident investigator as a consultant, it is far too early to form opinions on probable cause. These things may seem very obvious but very often have bizarre causes well outside the control of the pilot. Having said that, this is a lot of airplane for a non-professional pilot to handle in weather. In any event, I pray for him and his family – that they somehow survived this. I know that’s hoping against hope, but until they are found, we should all pray they’re alive and well. What a terrible event, even f the survived.

  3. Oh well, they died living their privileged lives. Let’s hope they made their peace with God before he called them. Sometimes people forget to thank God for their blessings.

  4. None of us ever knows when God calls us, so that is why we all need to know Him, trust Him and be more like him. Kind, loving, compassionate, caring, forgiving and faithful! Praying God’s strength, and power will carry the families in the long sad days ahead. He has prepared a much better place for all who believe in HIM! No pain, sorrow, or sickness.

    • Please this whole family just died. One was blind. Please do not add any more crazy comments. I hope you will go to the site of the PA State Trooper shooting and say he was the cause of his own death.
      God bless to all who have passed this week.

  5. I’m sorry to hear and read about this unfortunate incident. All seemed like very nice people. I am so sorry for this loss.

  6. This story is a cautionary tail. Dont fly with rich guys who fly their own planes. Fly with super rich guys that have a real pilot to fly thier plane.