AUSTIN (KXAN) — A plane that took off from Oklahoma City heading to Georgetown was last seen on radar over the Gulf of Mexico.
A spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration said the privately-owned Cirrus S22T left Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City Wednesday at 2:19 p.m. The pilot had filed a flight plan to Georgetown, but instead of landing, continued on the same course and was unresponsive to air traffic control instructions. The aircraft was last seen on radar at 15,000 feet heading into the Gulf of Mexico, the FAA said.
Navy planes from New Orleans were sent to investigate and reported the pilot in the air was slouched over and appeared to be unconscious. The Coast Guard reported the man was likely unresponsive due to hypoxia, a lack of oxygen in the blood.
As of Thursday evening, the Coast Guard had not yet found the plane, but was coordinating with the Mexican Navy to search an area about 118 miles north of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The pilot has not been officially identified, but family members tell KFOR, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, that the pilot is Bill Kinsinger.
Various dog rescue groups have posted on Facebook indicating Kinsinger was working with the organization “Pilots N Paws” to help transport a husky.
Members of Pilots N Paws told KXAN that the dog Kinsinger was scheduled to pick up in Georgetown is an older husky unable to use its back legs. Volunteers said that the dog was about to be euthanized in Central Texas, which is why the nonprofit was planning to fly it to a new foster home in Oklahoma City.
Members of Pilots N Paws along with Trinity Constructors will be flying the husky to Oklahoma Thursday, in part to honor Kinsinger.
Pilots who fly with the group volunteer their time, their planes and their fuel to help transport pets in dangerous situations. Pet advocates tell KXAN this is often faster and easier on the dogs than traveling by car.
“Pilots want an excuse to fly,” explained Shane Torgerson, who is also a pilot with Pilots N Paws. “Most of us are animal lovers too.”
Torgerson is based out of the same Georgetown airport which Kinsinger was scheduled to fly into. He said that Kinsinger’s disappearance has struck a chord with the community there.
“It kind of hit home because I know exactly what he was going through as he was flying off,” Torgerson said.
Torgerson added that the circumstances around the disappearance are perplexing, because pilots are trained extensively about how to handle hypoxia and other dangerous situations.
“[Kinsinger is] a trained person, health guy doing this, and one day it’s just over you know,” Torgerson said. “It’s sad.”
Torgerson had never met Kinsinger, but knew who he was as Kinsinger was very active with the online Pilots N Paws community. “I just want to reach out to Bill’s family and let them know that we’re all sorry this happened to him,” he said.