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Body of one missing kayaker found in Lake Erie

Jessica Cuffman • Apr 28, 2013 at 4:36 PM

A private boater discovered the body of 12-year-old Viola Francis Friday morning, 20 days after she and her father went missing while kayaking.

She and her father, Jonathan Francis, 30, were last seen leaving Crystal Rock at about 5 p.m. April 6 in two kayaks they got for Christmas.

They were supposed to be heading out for a short trip to the Edison Bridge, but they never returned.

Friday morning, authorities picked up the body after the private boater called the U.S. Coast Guard. Deputies confirmed it was Viola, based on a description of what she'd been wearing when she went missing, Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth said.

Sheriff's deputies have notified family members about the discovery.

Francis' girlfriend reported the pair missing at about 5 a.m. April 7, launching a search that family and friends never gave up on — even after their kayaks were found floating near the Port Clinton shoreline and when the pair was officially presumed drowned.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, local fire departments, family and friends and even a local fisherman had pitched in in recent weeks to try to find the bodies.

Viola's mother, Ruth Brown, and her fiance, Timothy Snyder Jr., have established a fund at Fifth Third Bank to cover her funeral expenses.

Donations may be made in the Viola Francis Memorial Fund.

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