PURCHASE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Dr. Richard Rockefeller, the great-grandson of Standard Oil co-founder John D. Rockefeller, died Friday morning in a plane crash near Westchester County Airport.
As CBS 2’s John Slattery reported Friday, Rockefeller, 65, was the only one onboard when the plane he was piloting went down just after 8 a.m. The crash happened about a mile southwest of the airport on Cottage Avenue, which is also near the State University of New York campus in Purchase.
“Shortly after takeoff, the (Federal Aviation Administration) control tower notified airport operations that the aircraft was missing,” said Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.
The plane, a single engine, turbo-prop Piper Meridian, is equipped to carry a pilot and five passengers.
“The sole occupant and pilot is Dr. Richard Rockefeller. He flew in yesterday for the birthday of his father, David Rockefeller, who turned 99 yesterday,” Astorino said.
The plane, en route to Portland, Maine, was in heavy fog when it apparently clipped trees just after take-off and crashed at a stable about a half-mile away – narrowly missing a home.
“The weather at the time was a quarter-mile visibility, and an indefinite 200-foot ceiling,” said Westchester County Airport manager Peter Sherrer.
Those are poor conditions which require an instrument rating, which airport officials said Rockefeller had. Pilots of private planes make the decision about whether to fly in such conditions, officials said.
“The plane did hit several pine trees on the way down, and we’re fortunate that there was no fire,” said Harrison police Chief Anthony Marraccini.
Upon crashing into a yard, the aircraft broke up into many pieces, which were strewn about the property, with some parts lodged in the trees. No one else was hurt in the crash, Astorino said.
Rockefeller’s father, David Rockefeller, is a prominent banker and philanthropist. Richard was a nephew of former vice president Nelson Rockefeller — the 41st vice president of the United States and governor of New York from 1959 to 1973 — and great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller.
Richard Rockefeller was a physician with Doctors without Borders and was on the board of Rockefeller University. He lived in Falmouth, Maine.
He had recently been working on a way to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in wounded war veterans, Seitel said.
On Thursday, Rockefeller ate dinner with his father in Westchester to celebrate the family patriarch’s 99th birthday, officials said.
“Yesterday was a nice day for the family,” Astorino said. “Today, they’re dealing with an absolute tragedy.”
Family spokesman Fraser Seitel described Richard Rockefeller as an experienced pilot whose death has left the family in shock.
“It’s a terrible tragedy,” Seitel said. “Richard was a wonderful cherished son, brother, father and grandfather.”
Rockefeller is survived by his wife Nancy and their children.
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