UM student missing from rented plane stirs mystery

The Detroit News

A University of Michigan student is believed to have jumped from a plane before it crashed in Canada last week, authorities said Wednesday.

The 27-year-old graduate student had not been seen since March 15, the same day he rented the plane from an Ann Arbor airport then flew north, said Diane Brown, a spokeswoman for the University of Michigan Division of Public Safety and Security.

The single-engine Cessna 172 was found crashed about 37 miles east of Marathon, Ontario, which is near Lake Superior, at about 11:38 p.m. March 16, said Sgt. Peter Leon, media relations coordinator for Ontario Provincial Police.

“We conducted a thorough investigation and were unable to locate any life associated with that wreckage,” he said, adding the student is believed to have been the only person on board. “It would appear the pilot left the plane sometime before it crashed. Exactly where, we’re not sure.”

Ontario police have concluded their investigation, and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada is probing the crash, Leon said. Ground searches also were suspended, Brown said.

“University police have reason to be belief his actions were likely self-harm,” she said. Other details were not released.

The pilot’s disappearance earlier fueled much speculation online about possible explanations for the incident and his whereabouts.

The Daily Mail pondered the fate of the missing pilot of the Cessna, as did readers commenting on the article. AVweb said “Ann Arbor Ghost 172 Crashes In Ontario” about halfway between Sault St. Marie and Thunder Bay near the north shore of Lake Superior.

“... (T)here was no sign of a pilot. Local police reported the plane was empty, there were no tracks in the snow, no gas in the tanks and the autopilot was on,” the article said.