NEW ORLEANS — U.S. Coast Guard officials called off a search Monday for a missing pilot and Cirrus aircraft in the Gulf of Mexico.
The search for pilot Bill Kinsinger, 55, of Oklahoma City, started Wednesday when his plane disappeared from radar. Coast Guard searched 17,458 nautical square miles for approximately 79 hours.
Kinsinger, a graduate of Westminster College in Fulton, flew for a rescue dog transportation group, Pilots N Paws. He had been flying Jan. 3 from Oklahoma City to Georgetown, Texas, to pick up a disabled husky dog to deliver to a foster home.
Officials believe Kinsinger lost consciousness due to a lack of oxygen. His plane veered toward and then over the Gulf of Mexico, climbing to 19,000 feet before settling at 18,900 feet. When he didn't reply to radio calls, two fighter jets sent to contact him in person and observed Kinsinger slumped over the controls, unresponsive. Other aircraft were called in to assist but returned to base at nightfall.
Kinsinger, an anesthesiologist, leaves behind two sons and his Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers. His fellow volunteers with Pilots N Paws flew to Georgetown on Jan. 4 to pick up the dog and complete Kinsinger's mission.
"Ending a search is a difficult decision that we put the upmost thought and consideration into," said Capt. David Cooper, chief of incident management, Eighth Coast Guard District. "Dr. Kinsinger was a well loved man and our hearts go out to everyone impacted during this tragic time."
Involved in search were Coast Guard aircrews from USCG Air Stations in Corpus Christi, Texas; Clearwater, Florida; and Elizabeth City, North Carolina; and Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama. The motor vessel Gas Wisdom responded to a Coast Guard request for vessels in the area to assist the first evening of the search. Additionally, the Mexican Naval Secretariat had two ships, the ARM Demacrato and the ARM Guanajuato, involved in the search.