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Search for downed Reaper Drone expected to resume today

Officials say that the craft remained in approved military airspace after it took off from Fort Drum, the only location in the region where the MQ-9 Reaper is currently allowed to depart.
Oswego (WSYR-TV) – The Air National Guard says, due to weather, it suspended the search for a MQ-9 Reaper drone that crashed into Lake Ontario early Tuesday afternoon.

The Coast Guard had dispatched a 47-foot vessel from Oswego and a helicopter from Buffalo to aid in the search. Both had night capabilities.

The Air National Guard says it will devise a plan and continue the search this morning.

“It’s probably a combination of parts that may be floating and not floating,” said Col. Greg Semmel, Commander with the 174th Attack Wing.

An official Air Force Safety investigation into the crash has begun. NewsChannel 9 was told a four star general at Langley Air force Base in Virginia will appoint a board to investigate, which should take about 30 days to complete.

The Air National Guard confirmed that there is video surveillance footage from the crash and it would be used to aid in the Air Force’s investigation.

"As we come up with the results of what happened with the airplane, we'll use that to make it even safer before we proceed," said Col. Semmel.

All local 174th flying operations have temporarily been suspended as the investigation gets underway.

According to Col. Semmel, the reaper was in the air for approximately three hours before it crashed into the water during a training exercise, 20 miles north of the Port of Oswego and 12 miles west of the shoreline around 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

Officials say there were no weapons or hazardous materials on the craft and say no one was injured during the incident.

Col. Semmel confirms that the craft remained in approved military airspace after it took off from Fort Drum, the only location in the region where the MQ-9 Reaper is currently allowed to depart.

The drones are also cleared to fly over parts of Onondaga, Oswego, and Madison counties during training exercises.

Ann Tiffany with the Syracuse Peace Council wants to end local training missions.

"They were very fortunate that this occurred in the lake, Lake Ontario, and not on land," Tiffany said.

While the Air National Guard says it lost control of one of its aircraft, it stands by its drone program and hopes to see it expand soon to include flight departures from Hancock Field.

"It is as safe of an airplane as any other airplane that the Air Force flies and that should keep the confidence in the process ongoing, with the goal of flying off of Hancock Field," Col. Semmel said.

Tiffany sees the crash as a sign that the Air National Guard should reconsider training over Central New York.

"There may be some less populated areas that this could take place than Upstate New York," Tiffany said. “This accident may just be a wake up call."

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