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Air Force assistance requested to find drone that crashed into Lake Ontario

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WATERTOWN - The New York Air National Guard and other responders could not find a downed MQ-9 Reaper drone Wednesday, one day after it crashed into Lake Ontario.

The 174th Attack Wing, Syracuse, which operated the drones, asked the Air Force to support its search.

The drone crashed at about 1 p.m. Tuesday, about 12 miles from the lake’s eastern shore and 35 miles from Fort Drum’s Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield, where it took off.

An U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and vessel looked for the aircraft Tuesday afternoon, but that search was called off because of bad weather. The Coast Guard did not search for the aircraft Wednesday.

The cause of the crash remains under review. The unit said in a news release Wednesday evening that it will continue to compile information to assist investigators, and that it could take more than a month to complete.

Among the assets that the unit asked the Air Force to send was a HC-130 search aircraft. Two upstate New York guard units fly versions of the aircraft but it wasn’t immediately known if any of their aircraft would conduct the search.

The $4 million to $5 million drone crashed while traveling in approved airspace during a routine training exercise after taking off from Fort Drum’s airfield. It had no weapons or hazardous materials on board. The aircraft has a wingspan of 66 feet and weighs approximately 8,000 to 10,500 pounds.

As the search continues, training operations remain suspended for the wing’s Reapers until the unit feels it is safe for them to resume.

The unit has operated from the Fort Drum airfield since Oct. 2011, and last month marked its 2,000 flight hour with its Reapers from the airfield.

Johnson Newspapers staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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