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Buffalo Police diver still missing

Michael Mroziak

A Buffalo Police officer who disappeared during a diving training session in the Niagara River is still missing.

The search for Buffalo Police Officer Craig Lehner continues this afternoon. The 34-year-old is a full time member of the department's K-9 Unit, but he is also active with the Underwater Recovery Team. Yesterday's exercise was a typical training session until Lehner failed to surface.

The search began around 1 p.m. Friday. The reality that this has turned from a rescue to a recovery mission has begun to weigh on the department as a whole.

During a late morning briefing, Mayor Byron Brown talked about everyone coming together.  

“There has been an incredible outpouring of support from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies that have joined the search effort,” said Brown. “We thank them all for that. There has been an outpouring of support from the public and the business community.”

Buffalo Police Lieutenant Jeff Rinaldo said a cadaver search dog has been on the water trying to help to narrow the area for search teams to look for the officer.

“We also have an asset from the NYPD,” said Rinaldo. “It’s en route to Buffalo with the assistance of the state police aviation unit to get a couple of divers as well as this very high tech piece of sonar equipment delivered to Buffalo as soon as possible.”

Rinaldo said safety is the utmost concern in waters that can be treacherous.

“We have somebody assigned to the water assets in charge of the divers,” said Rinaldo. “We have another person in charge of the boats there on the water.”

Rinaldo said search teams have a very detailed plan.

“It’s the same type of system we use in many many large incidents,” said Rinaldo. “So we’re familiar with it and, at this point, it’s just a matter of scheduling and coordinating those efforts. Unfortunately we can’t speculate until we find our diver.”

Rinaldo said there's a century of debris under the water -- full-size trees, cars, construction debris. The search effort currently spans from the breakwater where the officer disappeared early Friday afternoon during a training exercise to the International Bridge. Officials say this is still officially a search and rescue mission until they have information that leads to another conclusion.

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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