Saturday, March 18, 2017

Cessna 172P Skyhawk, N230TX: Fatal accident occurred March 15, 2017

SAGINAW COUNTY, Michigan (WJRT) - Two Michigan mysteries have been solved, a mysterious plane crash in 2017, and the discovery of human remains found in Saginaw County more than a year later.

It was Tuesday when we told you Saginaw County investigators were zeroing in on the identity of human remains found in Chapin Township in 2018.

An MSU anthropologist confirmed today the remains are those of a man who police believe jumped from an airplane.

The confirmation was made through dental records. You might remember, teeth were found in those Saginaw County woods in 2018 and the University of Michigan police had Xin Rong's dental records, and it was a match.

"There all kinds of theories going around at first," says Saginaw County Undersheriff Mike Gomez.

But finally, after more than three years of investigation, the Saginaw County Sheriff's Department confirms the almost intact human skeletal remains found in woods in southwest Saginaw County are that of Xin Rong.

He was a 27-year-old University of Michigan doctoral student who rented a Cessna from an Ann Arbor airport in March of 2015.

He filed a flight plane to Harbor Springs, but when that plane crashed in Mantiouwadge, Canada, north of Lake Superior, with no fuel, and no one on board, it had investigators stumped.

Police and family believed Rong had jumped from the plane to his death.

"He had made comments to other people, he had made comments to his wife that was his intent," says Gomez.

Investigators believed the auto-pilot settings had the plane had about nine thousand feet in the air, but where did Rong end up?

When human bones were found about a year and a half after the crash, MSU anthropologist Joe Hefner determined the bones were so badly broken, it was possible the person had fallen from airplane.

Last month, a private company, Othram performed a DNA test which indicated the remains were that of a person most likely from eastern Asia.

Detectives began looking through Michigan missing persons cases for people of that ethnicity, which lead them to Rong.

His family was notified this morning.

"Whether it is a year, whether its a day, whether its five years, its still an emotional experience," says Gomez.

Rong's widow lives in California and now the process will begin of reuniting his remains with his family.

University of Michigan Flyers Inc

NTSB Identification: CEN17WA133 
Accident occurred Wednesday, March 15, 2017 in Manitouwadge, Canada
Aircraft: CESSNA 172P, registration: N230TX
Injuries: Unavailable

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On March 15, 2017, at an unknown time, a Cessna 172P airplane, N230TX, owned and operated by the University of Michigan Flyers Inc. was substantially damaged when it collided with wooded terrain near Manitouwadge, Ontario, Canada. No pilot or occupant was found in the wreckage. The flight originated from the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport, near Ann Arbor, Michigan, about 1912 eastern daylight time and was destined for the Harbor Springs Airport, near Harbor Springs, Michigan.

The accident investigation is under the jurisdiction and control of the Canadian Transportation Safety Board. This report is for informational purposes only and contains only information released by or obtained from the Canadian government. Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Transportation Safety Board of Canada
200 Promenade du Portage,
Place du Centre, 4th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 1K8 
Occurrence Number: A17O0045

SAGINAW, Michigan – Human bones found in central Michigan are those of a pilot who apparently leapt from his plane in mid-flight, authorities said Thursday.

The bones discovered September 9, 2018, in Chapin Township have been positively identified as those of 27-year-old Xin Rong, a University of Michigan doctoral student who disappeared while flying a rented Cessna on March 15, 2017, the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Office confirmed.

The plane had left Ann Arbor and was bound for Harbor Springs in northern Michigan. The plane apparently ran out of fuel and crashed in a wooded area near Marathon, Ontario, north of the Upper Peninsula.

The partially clothed bones were found by a man on his property. After a check of missing person cases turned up Rong, his dental records were sent to a forensic anthropologist who positively identified the bones as his, authorities said. 

The pilot, Xin Rong, of a Cessna Skyhawk (N230TX) that crashed 60km east of Marathon has been declared dead by Washtenaw County probate judge Julia Owdziej, in an October 5th hearing. Rong, member of Michigan Flyers, based at the Ann Arbor airport rented the plane, with a flight plan for Harbour Springs, Michigan. The aircraft was reported overdue the same day, March 15th, 2017. 

A search was conducted in the Harbour Springs/Petoskey area without success, and the search radius was expanded into Northern Ontario. 

Superior East Ontario Provincial Police – Wawa assisted JRCC Trenton in searching for a missing small aircraft on March 16th.  The Hercules was observed searching in Michipicoten Bay for about 25 minutes before heading to Marathon to continue searching there. The Skyhawk was found crashed, out of fuel, 60km east of Marathon with no signs of the pilot Xin Rong at the crash site and no footprints in the snow. There were a number of Rong’s personal items found in the aircraft.

Xin Rong was pursuing a doctorate at University of Michigan and was a certified private pilot.

The University of Michigan doctoral student, who was from China, disappeared last March while flying a rented Cessna from the Ann Arbor, Michigan airport.

The plane's wreckage was found in a forested area about 60 kilometres from Marathon but there was no trace of the pilot.

Two rescue technicians airlifted to the site found no human remains and no footprints in the snow around the wreckage.

It appeared the plane had been on autopilot, and hit the ground after exhausting its fuel supply.

Authorities have speculated that Rong exited the plane at some point prior to the crash.

A probate judge has signed an order declaring that he died on March 15, the day of the crash.

Xin Rong

OTTAWA—The military search-and-rescue technicians dropped in on a mystery.

A light plane had crashed in the woods in northern Ontario and an air force Hercules transport and Griffon helicopter were dispatched from Trenton to search for survivors.

They located the crash site and two rescuers dropped by parachute to the scene. It’s what they didn’t find that has left authorities on both sides of the border scratching their heads.

There was no pilot in the wreckage, nor any indication that anyone had walked away.

“Aircraft was devoid of any occupant or any trace of an occupant prior to impact; no footprints in snow,” read a preliminary report by Transport Canada.

The plane, a Cessna 172, had departed Ann Arbor, Mich., bound for Harbor Springs, about 370 kilometres north, just after 7 p.m. on March 15.

But the plane overflew its destination and continued north, flying another 380 kilometres over the eastern end of Lake Superior before crashing east of Marathon, Ont., just before midnight.

That’s where military rescuers found it the following day. “They conducted a search of the immediate area and there was nothing to suggest that anybody walked away from the wreckage,” said Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Peter Leon.

The next day, the OPP flew in its own team to search the crash site and they too came up empty, Leon told the Star.

“It is rather unique,” Leon said. “We’ve had a number of tragedies involving aircraft. Usually when they find the aircraft, they find the pilot or the occupants.”

Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada also went to the scene to survey the wreckage.

The plane crash has now become a missing persons case, although authorities aren’t holding out much hope they will find the pilot alive.

Police believe that at some point during the flight, the pilot, a 27-year-old PhD student at the University of Michigan, jumped from the plane, leaving it to fly unattended until it crashed.

“The feeling right now is at some point during the flight, the pilot more than likely left the confines of that aircraft. Whereabouts? We have no idea,” Leon said.

“It is entirely possible that the pilot could have exited the plane at any point,” he said.

The Transport Canada report pointedly noted that, “the pilot was not a parachutist or does not own a parachute.”

The pilot was seen on the morning of March 15. Later that day, he rented the Cessna at Ann Arbor Airport, according to Diane Brown, a spokeswoman for the University of Michigan police department.

“University police have reasons to believe his actions likely were an act of self-harm,” Brown said in a statement.

“Out of respect for his family, classmates and colleagues, we won’t have additional information to release on the investigation,” she said.

The search has been put on hold but Leon said that police are hoping someone may find something. “We’ll obviously do whatever we can to try to locate the whereabouts of that pilot and follow up on any information that is received,” Leon said.


The 27-year-old Michigan pilot and academic believed to have rented the small plane that crashed without any occupants last week near Manitouwadge was likely intending to his end his life when he took off, University of Michigan police confirmed Wednesday.

“Police have reasons to believe his actions likely were an act of self-harm,” a University of Michigan news release said.

Police said the pilot was Ann Arbor, Mich. resident Xin Rong, 27, a Ph.D. candidate in the university’s school of information.

Rong, who was last seen on the morning of March 15, is believed to have rented a Cessna 172 aircraft later that day from the University of Michigan Flyers club.
Police have suspended an air and ground search for Rong, the release said. His body has not been found.

Rong described himself on his website as an award-winning researcher in the field of “human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence (and) natural language processing.”

University police did not elaborate on why it believes Rong was feeling suicidal.

“Out of respect for his family, classmates and colleagues, we won't have additional information to release,” said the news release.

According to a Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigation, the Cessna 172 Rong rented crashed on the night of March 15 about 25 kilometres southeast of Manitouwadge.

No traces of a pilot or passengers were found at the remote scene. Investigators said the plane didn’t land anywhere before it crashed, and had travelled 770 kilometres by the time it descended unoccupied into the woods.

“When (Rong) exited, and how (Rong) exited, is still a mystery,” said one board investigator who inspected the crash site.

Investigators believe the plane was flying on auto-pilot and ran out of fuel just prior to crashing.

It departed Ann Arbor airport, near Detroit, about 7 p.m. on March 15 and was bound for Harbour Springs in the northern part of Michigan.

ANN ARBOR, MI - Police have identified a missing University of Michigan student who rented a small plane that crashed in Canada last week.

School of Information doctoral candidate Xin Rong, 27, was last seen on the morning of March 15, said Diane Brown, spokeswoman for the University of Michigan Division of Public Safety and Security.

He rented a plane from the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport the same day, and it's believed to have crashed late that night, about 11:38 p.m. in Ontario, Canada, about 37.3 miles east of the town of Marathon. Marathon appears to be about 463 miles northwest of Ann Arbor by air.

A wrecked plane in Ontario, Canada, is connected to a missing University of Michigan student, police say.

Officials do not believe Rong was aboard the plane at the time of the crash and university police believe his actions were likely an act of self-harm. Air and ground searches for him have since been suspended, Brown said.

Sgt. Peter Leon, media coordinator for Ontario Provincial Police, has said there's nothing to indicate that the plane's pilot is alive.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating the crash and a liaison from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is working with Canadian authorities, said Chris Krepski, a spokesman for the Canadian board.

The university division declined to release further information.


Six months after a University of Michigan doctoral student mysteriously vanished while piloting a plane — which eventually crash-landed in Canada — a woman who says she is his wife is asking a judge to declare him dead.

Xin Rong, who was 27 at the time of his disappearance, has been missing March 15. 

The downed Cessna he had been flying was found in a densely wooded area in Ontario the same day he rented the aircraft from a flying group at the Ann Arbor Airport. But Rong was not there, there were no footprints in the snow and the plane was out of fuel, authorities have said. 

A spokesman with the Ontario Provincial Police previously said authorities believe Rong jumped from the plane at some point during the flight. At the time, police said suicide was suspected.

In a petition to have Rong's death established by a Washtenaw County probate judge, Surong Ruan, who says in court filings that she is his wife, wrote: "All the evidence indicates the aircraft was operating normally and crashed because it ran out of fuel, and at some point prior to the crash, the pilot exited the aircraft. As ground searches were negative, no parachute or life vests on the plane and the aircraft was cruising at around 9000 ft altitude, I believe Xin Rong exited the aircraft and didn't have a chance of being alive."

A hearing on the petition is scheduled for next month.

An official with the court said such petitions ask for the court to establish the cause, date and location of death.

His wife sought an earlier hearing in the case — rather than waiting months to publish notices of the hearing in a newspaper — but online court records indicate her request was denied. 

In a letter to Judge Julia Owdziej dated May 31, she wrote that she lives in San Francisco and Rong's parents live in China and said she is trying to take care of his property and address questions from insurance companies and the club that owned the plane Rong had been flying.

"I cannot address some of these matters until there is a declaration that he is deceased," she wrote.

Reached by phone on Friday, she said she was not available to talk and hung up.

Last week, Diane Brown, a spokeswoman for the U-M Division of Public Safety and Security, said the investigation remains open and wrote in an e-mail that police "don't have any new information to release."

Rong was pursuing a PhD in the university's School of Information and had an interest in aviation. A member of the flying club, who could not be reached last week, previously told the Free Press that Rong was a certified pilot.

On March 15, he flew out of Ann Arbor in a 1984 Cessna 172P owned by the Michigan Flyers. When it was overdue to return, authorities were notified and the wreckage was found in a forested area near Manitouwadge, Ontario, northeast of Munising over Lake Superior.

Documents filed in the probate case offer more details about his disappearance. In her letter to the judge, his wife wrote that Rong's wallet, iPad and other personal items were found in the plane.

Also included in the court file is a letter from a university police sergeant dated March 24 that says, in addition to searches around the plane crash site, a search was conducted in the Petoskey area, "where Mr. Rong's cellphone last pinged. Results were negative."

A spokesman with the Ontario Provincial Police last week would not confirm whether the cell phone pinged to any towers in Canada and said their investigation would remain open until Rong's whereabouts are known.


  1. Maybe he fell out of the aircraft whilst taking scenic pictures......

    I love taking friends up for sightseeing flights.

    I have flown a number of Detroit River tours, San Francisco Bay tours, and Pudget Sound tours.

    Contact me if you are around and are interested for a fun flight!

    I am very enthusiastic about general aviation.

    I am a certified private pilot in the United States, currently affiliated with Michigan Flyers.

  2. How in the H E double hockey sticks does this happen? Somethin' fishy going on here - I tell you!

  3. Mr. Wrong could have put the aircraft into a sideslip and opened the door to exit. Easy peasy.

  4. He is a short stature, small physique/build. Is it possible to exit through the side window of a Cessna 172?

  5. Xin Rong was somebody's son or friend,
    He never jumped. Are you all kidding me. Many ways to track a plane why won't they show his? N230TX. Investigators can't get it right. Is it east of Manitouwadge or Marathon. North of Wawa or West of White River Ontario. I wonder if he plotted White River Airport only to find out opened in the summer as a water landing. Not sure of present air charts show this.We know he had to be very low on fuel at this point. Would a pilot be qualified to fly in a 172 across Lake Superior? How do you fly under the radar without anyone seeing you? Radar tracking Minnesota Centre , Winnipeg Centre or Toronto Centre? If Xin was buzzing around up there coming to Canada I am sure your guys or our guys would be hot on his tail. We both have planes that can keep up to him.
    I can't believe the journalism written just awful.
    As I said if he was my son I would find him.

  6. Show the crash-site photos, or it NEVER happened. More fake news!

  7. Fake News ... no picture of downed aircraft or the body.

  8. I suspect fake news from Chinese social media giant Sina. LOL!

  9. I just wonder why it is 'concluded' the pilot was suicidal. Unless there was a suicide note or something said to someone, maybe he saw that the plane was running out of fuel, grabbed a parachute and jumped rather than crashing. Maybe he landed in the lake and drowned. Either way, it is sad. He was so young and brilliant.

  10. There's no positive purpose served by the fellow commenters being in a state of delusional denial.

  11. He take rong way out. He find also it a rong way down when he jump.

  12. Probably afraid of ICE coming to get him due to an expired student visa.

  13. He gets to jump and I get the middle seat with the fat guy on a commercial flight.