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Search called off for missing Ontario fisherman

Searchers combed Lake Erie for the last two days, covering more than 5,300 square nautical miles, but found no sign of the missing fisherman from Niagara Falls, Ont.

The search effort continued Thursday for Giusseppe “Joe” Reinhart, who disappeared Tuesday after leaving Crystal Beach, Ont., in a small boat, but the U.S. Coast Guard called off the search Thursday at sunset.

“Due to the amount of time that has passed since the man departed on his fishing trip and the ideal search conditions our crews experienced over the course of our searches, we have made the difficult decision to discontinue search efforts at sunset pending any new developments,” said Cmdr. Tad Drozdowski, Coast Guard Sector Buffalo chief of response, said in a written statement. “Our deepest condolences go to the Reinhart family and all those affected. More than 50 people from across the Coast Guard and other Canadian, federal, state and local partners searched thousands of miles with hope of bringing Mr. Reinhart home to his loved ones.”

Reinhart’s boat turned up empty on the lake shore in Hamburg at about 1 p.m. Tuesday. Inside the boat were signs it had been recently used – fishing poles, recently caught fish and beer.

But authorities are looking into the possibility that Reinhart may have faked his own death.

Federal and local authorities from both sides of the border participated in the search for the man described by relatives as an avid fisherman who didn’t know how to swim.

Reinhart, 37, left to go fishing at about 3 a.m. Tuesday, his brother told The Buffalo News on Wednesday.

Family members questioned what may have happened out on the water, calling the situation “really suspicious.” Reinhart was supposed to have closed on the purchase of a “little dream house” in North Bay, Ont., on Wednesday, his family said.

Reinhart pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the August 2005 stabbing death of a Niagara Falls, Ont., man, according to the Niagara Falls (Ont.) Review.

The geographic area covered by the search Thursday remained about the same as prior days, said Coast Guard Lt. Katelyn Waddle.

The area stretches from Crystal Beach toward the Niagara River and up to about the Peace Bridge and then along Lake Erie to Hamburg.

Search crews include Coast Guard units from Buffalo, Detroit and Cape Cod, Mass.; Coast Guard Auxiliary; Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ont.; Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary; the Erie and Niagara county Sheriff’s Offices; Hamburg Police; and Customs and Border Protection.

Anyone who may have information about Reinhart is asked to call the Coast Guard at (716) 843-9527.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com

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