A deepening mystery about a missing pilot has investigators on edge in Michigan and Ontario. University of Michigan graduate student Xin Rong (27) rented a Cessna 172 airplane at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport in Michigan on March 15 and flew out with Harbor Springs, Michigan, as his destination. 
 
Authorities were notified once the plane and Rong were overdue for their return. The plane was found at a crash site in nearby Ontario, Canada, before midnight, about 45 miles east of Marathon. When investigators from Canada’s Transportation Safety Board went to look, they found no one in the downed plane nor any footprints leading away. Rong was missing.
 
 
While investigators theorize that Rong was an apparent suicide, they are not revealing further details. They have ended their investigation.
 
However, police at University of Michigan continue to investigate Rong as a missing person. However, they confirmed on Wednesday that he indeed boarded the plane. The air and ground search for him has been suspended. A news release from the UM police department said, 
“Police have reasons to believe his actions likely were an act of self-harm.” 
 
"When (Rong) exited, and how (Rong) exited, is still a mystery."
 
Rong was registered as a student in the School of Information, according to his LinkedIn page, where he was researching artificial intelligence, “language networks” and “text mining.” He had worked at Microsoft and Google. His personal website is offline. 
 
According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigation, the plane traveled almost 190 miles before crashing in a forest in northwestern Ontario. 


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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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