A woman who says she is the wife of a missing University of Michigan doctoral student has asked a judge to declare him dead, six month after he vanished while piloting a rented plane.
Surong Ruan filed a petition in Washtenaw County saying she does not believe her husband, Xin Rong, is alive.
Rong, 27, rented a Cessna 172 from the Ann Arbor Airport on March 15. The empty plane crash landed and later was discovered near Manitouwadge, Canada.
Petition: Surong Ruan (pictured left in late August), the wife of missing University of Michigan doctoral student Xin Rong (right), has asked a judge to declare him dead
Ruan’s request comes six months after her spouse (pictured together in San Francisco) vanished while piloting a rented plane, which was later found wrecked in Canada
Authorities say Rong was nowhere to be found. There were not any footprints in the snow or any fuel in the aircraft.
An Ontario Provincial Police spokesman says authorities believe Rong jumped to his death from the plane during the flight in an apparent suicide.
Diane Brown, a spokeswoman for the University of Michigan’s Division of Public Safety and Security, said in April: ‘University Police have reasons to believe his actions likely were an act of self-harm.’
Rong, 27, an experienced pilot, disappeared on Marh 15 after renting a single-engine Cessna. He was never found
Court documents indicate Rong’s purported wife, Ruan seeks the declaration as she cares for her husband’s property and deals with insurance companies. A hearing on the petition is scheduled for next month.
The Detroit Free Press reported Ruan had asked for an earlier hearing, but her previous request was denied.
In a letter to the judge written in late May – 11 weeks after her husband’s disappearance – Ruan said she lives in San Francisco while his parents reside in China, and that she has been struggling to set her husband’s affairs in order.
‘I cannot address some of these matters until there is a declaration that he is deceased,’ she wrote.
Sgt. Peter Leon of the Ontario Provincial Police said earlier this year it was unlikely the pilot of the ditched Cessna was in the plane at the time of the crash. He also added that there’s nothing to indicate that he’s still alive.
Rong, who was from Changchun, China, studied artificial intelligence at the university’s School of Information and hoped to one day work in aviation safety.
Officials said there was no fuel left in the Cessna 172 (file photo) and there were not any footprints in the snow
He was last seen on March 15 – the same day he rented the single-engine Cessna 172 registered to University of Michigan Flyers in Ann Arbor.
Investigators believe he put the plane on autopilot after he filed a flight plan to Harbor Springs, Michigan, the Chronicle Journal reported.
But the plane crashed at 11.38pm on the night of March 15 in the woods near Manitouwadge.
The plane did not have a roof hatch, and was not designed to carry parachutes, according to senior investigator Peter Rowntree, who added: ‘The only way in or out is through the two main cabin doors.’
The autopilot technology required a pilot in the aircraft at the time of takeoff, and Rowntree did not believe any stops were made before the crash.
This map shows the location of the takeoff of Rong’s rented plane, his flight plan destination and the spot outside Manitouwadge, Canada, where it crash landed after running out of fuel
Rong graduated from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China in 2011, as did his wife, according to her Facebook page.
Rong, who was studying human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing, planned to graduate from the University of Michigan in 2016, according to a profile on the school’s website.
He worked as a software engineer intern at Google for two summers, and wrote on his personal website: ‘I am very enthusiastic about general aviation. I am a certified private pilot in the United States, currently affiliated with the Michigan Flyers.
‘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.’
Andy Fowler, vice president of the Michigan Flyers, said: ‘Rong was beloved member of our club. He was not a student pilot – he was fully qualified to fly our planes.’
Surong Ruan graduated from University of Michigan’s School of Information in 2012 with a Master’s degree in human-computer interaction. Her LinkedIn page indicates that for the past year, Ruan has been working as a product designer for a San Francisco-based virtual reality company.
For confidential support call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.