GEORGETOWN, TEXAS - As the Coast Guard continues to search for an aircraft in the Gulf of Mexico that was supposed to land at the Georgetown Municipal Airport Wednesday night, friends of the pilot are continuing the rescue mission in his honor.
The pilot was identified as Bill Kinsinger, 55, of Oklahoma City. He was a volunteer for the organization Pilots N Paws, which helps rescue animals nationwide.
Kinsinger was headed to Texas to pick up an 11-year-old husky dog, who has been surrendered in Edinburg, Texas, to the Palm Valley Animal Center. He planned to take the dog back to Oklahoma City, where the dog would then be transferred to Las Vegas for rehabilitation.
We're working with heavy hearts but still hoping #PNP #Pilot Dr. Bill Kinsinger will be found alive. His plane was last seen over the Gulf of Mexico while flying from OKC to TX to pick up a rescue dog. The coast guard is searching for Bill. We need all your prayers! @bethostern pic.twitter.com/H3MRGNJ5kO— Pilots N Paws (@PilotsNPaws) January 5, 2018
Thursday evening, friends transported the dog, named Masaru, to Oklahoma City in Kinsinger's honor.
Justin Blackburn was one of those pilots.
“I kind of felt like we had already committed to it, we needed to do it, especially under the circumstances, in Bill’s honor and memory. We don’t know what happened, but we wanted to do this to kind of remember him and get the dog to a safe place," said Blackburn.
Blackburn planned to transport the dog later in the week, but said Kinsinger volunteered.
“In Bill’s always volunteering happy way ... they had a vet tech in Oklahoma City who could see the dog, so he agreed to come down yesterday and pick up the dog and take it to Oklahoma City,” said Blackburn.
According to Blackburn, they had met up a few times to transfer dogs through the program. He described Kinsinger as charismatic.
"Super funny, gregarious. I just remember him being really happy and fun to talk to and a good guy,” said Blackburn.
He couldn't believe when he heard what happened.
“Just what a terrible situation, I mean I’m not going to speculate, I can guess a few things that are just purely guesses, but anytime you’re out over a huge body of water in a single engine plane and you have limited fuel, that’s a tough scenario to have a happy ending to," said Blackburn.
Instead of landing in Georgetown Wednesday night, according to the FAA, the plane continued on the same course and didn’t answer air traffic control instructions.
According to the FAA, the Cirrus S22T aircraft left the Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City Wednesday afternoon. By Wednesday evening, the Coast Guard got a report saying the pilot was unresponsive, likely due to lack of oxygen. The Naval Air Station in New Orleans sent a crew to look for the plane. They apparently saw the pilot slouched over.
Thursday, the Coast Guard said the plane was last seen about 118 nautical miles north of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The Georgetown Municipal Airport manager told KVUE they never had contact with the pilot, saying they usually don’t hear from a pilot until they’re ready to land at the facility.
According to Anchors Up Rescue Group, the husky will be transported to them in Las Vegas for rehabilitation.
Vice President Gia Fowler said they will now spend about $10,000 to rehabilitate the dog, saying he has problems walking, heart worms and matted fur.
Dawn Coleman has been fostering the husky since New Year's Eve and said Kinsinger has been crucial in getting these dogs the help they need.
“He has just been an amazing, unbelievable person in this entire rescue community. Everyone just talks about he’s the most kind hearted, sweetest, most generous person,” said Coleman. “He’s made this entire group possible. If it wasn't for pilots like him, you know, picking these dogs up and transporting them, it would just be near impossible to travel on the group with them for hours and hours especially in this kind of condition.”
She called Kinsinger larger than life.
“We just want to honor him, and all those pilots who put so much into, you know, moving these dogs around and helping them and giving them a new chance at life," said Coleman.
According to the organization Pilots N Paws, Kinsinger volunteered with them since July 2014.
Executive Director Kate Quinn said he stood out because he was always the first one to step up to provide emergency transport.
"Rescuing animals is Bill's passion," said Quinn. "He's always very upbeat and positive. Very empathetic to everyone he volunteered with encouraging us to “save some more.”
She said Kinsinger previously emailed her saying “I am having a great time with PNP. I just signed up in mid July and I have already flown six missions. I Love dogs and hate that so many are mistreated or neglected. As long as you have the need, I'll keep flying.”
According to Quinn, Kinsinger oftentimes would fly a mission each week.
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