WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash of a vintage plane on Long Island that left men people dead and another in critical condition late Sunday morning.
Monday night, two grieving Long Island families learned here was no indication that mechanical problems caused the small aircraft to crash just beyond a runway and burst into flames while practicing takeoffs and landings at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach.
The Federal Aviation Administration says the Navion F single-engine aircraft came down at about 11:40 a.m. Sunday.
Police identified the pilot and owner of the aircraft — 61-year-old Richard Rosenthal of Huntington Station — as the lone survivor of the Hamptons airplane tragedy.
“This was the right crew at the right time and the right place,” Chief Warrant Officer Joseph McCarthy told CBS2. “We had extra people on board for another training event they were going to do and that helped in the rescue effort.”
Unfortunately the two others in the vintage single engine plane were not as lucky. Police Monday identified them as 64-year-old flight instructor Arieh Narkunski of Brooklyn and 65-year-old passenger Robert Wilkie of Hempstead.
“It’s a very sad situation but I think that all the people that were involved in the recovery effort, putting out the fire, the air national guard, are true heroes,” Gabreski Airport Manager Anthony Ceglio told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
It was in the dense woods just off of runway 33A where the small aircraft went down. Army National Guardsmen flying in a helicopter training session near the airport spotted flames, landed, and rushed into the pine barrens with handheld fire extinguishers to save the pilot, struggling to open the plane’s canopy.
Rosenthal, a respected lawyer and animal rights activist, was taken to the hospital in critical condition, but is expected to recover from his injuries.
“That’s miraculous, it’s unbelievable that a plane could crash and somebody survives,” neighbor Ken Brottman said. “The angels were looking down on him, that’s for sure.”
The NTSB and FAA are on scene trying to determine just what went wrong after the trio left Farmingdale’s Republic Airport Sunday morning, bound for Westhampton Beach.
“According to the air traffic control tower, the aircraft was doing a touch and go and they don’t know what happened after that,” Ceglio said.
The airport is used by corporations and private plane owners, as well as the 106th Rescue Wing of the Air National Guard. It was built by the federal government in 1943.
CBS2 reports that Sunday’s incident was the 9th small plane crash on Long Island since February of 2016.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)