Search to continue for missing Buffalo Police diver

Oct 13, 2017

A massive search effort was set to continue overnight for a Buffalo Police diver missing in the waters of the Niagara River. 

Robotic equipment and sonar were being used to continue the effort in darkness. Divers were scheduled to rejoin the search early Saturday morning.

The missing diver was identified late Friday by authorities as 34-year-old Craig Lehner, a nine-year member of the Buffalo Police Department. He was a longtime member of its K-9 Unit who joined the Underwater Recovery team last year. 

"Today the Buffalo Police Underwater Rescue Team was conducting routine training when, at approximately 12:50 this afternoon, a diver went missing. We have an extensive search underway looking for a diver," Lt. Jeff Rinaldo said in a brief update to assembled reporters.

Several agencies from both sides of the border, including the U.S. Coast Guard, were involved in the search, both by water and by air.

"We got a call around 1:30 asking for assistance. Buffalo knows we have a boat and an underwater squad," said City of Tonawanda Police Captain Fredric Foels, whose department was among those taking part in the water search.

"Our boat and the other boats out there have side scan sonar. They're making sweeps, just going down and up."  

Police officials emphasized the search was still a rescue mission, not a recovery, as of late Friday afternoon. Rinaldo estimated the underwater visibility to be around 10 feet.

"These are very, very dangerous waters to do diving in. That's why we train, at least once a month, in these waters. Unfortunately, sometimes training can be very dangerous," Rinaldo said.

Coast Guard officials said, in a statement, they had discovered the diver's tender cable had broken off. The Coast Guard report also suggested a set of secondary air tanks had been recovered on the surface but Rinaldo said those did not belong to the missing diver.

"That was not part of this situation," he said. "It was a spare tank that came off of a boat."