The U.S. Coast Guard has ended its massive search for a missing Oklahoma pilot who vanished while on a mission to retrieve a rescue dog.
Dr. Bill Kinsinger departed Wiley Post Airport in the state capital last week for a short hop to Georgetown, Texas, where he was supposed to pick up a husky for Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit organization he regularly flew for.
But the anesthesiologist did not land in Texas, and instead continued flying on the same course, authorities said. Kinsinger, 55, did not answer when air traffic controllers contacted him.
NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense, scrambled two F-16 fighter jets to make contact with Kinsinger, but the physician didn’t respond when the pilots dropped flares and buzzed the small plane, according to officials.
Kinsinger may have been suffering from hypoxia, which is caused by a lack of oxygen that can disorient or incapacitate those experiencing it. It often occurs at high altitudes.
FAA officials say Kinsinger’s Cirrus S22T aircraft was last seen on radar about 219 miles northwest of Cancun and headed into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Coast Guard and Mexican vessels searched 17,458 nautical miles for 79 hours before calling off the hunt. Officials say they feared the plane had dropped into the gulf and was buried under hundreds of feet of water.
Kinsinger’s colleagues at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center issued a statement this week after rescue efforts were aborted.
“This is not the outcome anyone wanted,” the statement read. “The circumstances of this tragedy leave us feeling shocked and heartbroken. We wanted so badly to find Dr. Kinsinger alive, or at the very least — find conclusive evidence that he did not survive so his family and friends could have some sense of closure. Perhaps that will come, in time.
“There is no doubt, he was a kind and compassionate man. One who devoted his life to caring for people and pets alike. He may have only walked the earth for a short 55 years, but he made a lasting impact on everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
Kinsinger had flown for the dog rescue group since 2014 and loved doing it, the organization said.
“Bill has flown hundreds of animals to safety, and we continue to pray for a miracle,” a post on the Pilots N Paws Facebook page read.