PURCHASE, New York (TJN) – Richard Rockefeller, the son of banker and philanthropist David Rockefeller, was killed Friday when the small plane he was piloting crashed in a neighborhood near the Westchester County Airport shortly after takeoff.
"It's a terrible tragedy," said family spokesman Fraser Seitel, who confirmed the death. "The family is in shock. Richard was a wonderful and cherished member of the family. He was an experienced pilot. He was a medical doctor, and it's horribly sad."
Airport operations administrator Peter Scherrer has confirmed that the plane, a Piper Meridian single-engine turbo prop, crashed at 8:08 a.m. after taking off from the airport and was reported down on Cottage Avenue in Purchase within 10 minutes. The weather was foggy and rainy at time of takeoff.
The plane is registered to Richard Rockefeller out of Falmouth, Maine, and was scheduled to fly to Portland, Maine. It could not immediately be confirmed if he is related to the Rockefeller family of Pocantico Hills. The flight was expected to last an hour and 14 minutes.
Seitel said the 64-year-old Rockefeller ate dinner with his father Thursday night to celebrate David Rockefeller's 99th birthday.
Airport operations administrator Peter Scherrer said the plane, a Piper Meridian single-engine turbo prop, took off from Runway 16 at the airport and went down at 8:08 a.m., crashing into trees off Cottage Avenue in Purchase. The weather was foggy and rainy at the time. The flight had been expected to last an hour and 14 minutes.
Richard Rockefeller lives in Falmouth, Maine. According to FlightAware flight tracking service, the plane left Portland International Jetport in Maine at 2:22 p.m. Thursday and landed at Westchester Airport at 3:41 p.m.
Dr. Rockefeller practiced as a family physician in Falmouth, Maine, until 2000 and has worked on global health causes. He served as president of the Health Commons Institute, a nonprofit organization, and chairman of the U.S. Advisory Board of Doctors Without Borders, according to the Rockefeller Brothers Trust Fund website. He is married and has two grown children.
Scherrer said the pilot flew out of the airport regularly. There were no reports of any other injuries. No one else was on the plane.
Officials confirmed that the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are en route to the scene and will head the crash investigation. A press conference is expected to be held around noon.
The Rev. Christopher Monturo of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in West Harrison said he heard about the accident on a scanner and arrived at the scene about 9:30 a.m. to offer his services as one of the town's chaplains.
"We just pray for everybody, that everything will go well," he said.
The airport closed for flights after the crash but flights resumed at 9:45 a.m., Scherrer said.
A Piper Meridian is about 30 feet long, about 11 feet high with a 43-foot wingspan and carries 170 gallons of fuel. They retail beginning about $2.2 million and seat six.
Staff writers Lee Higgiins, Richard Liebson and Theresa Juva-Brown contributed information for this report