MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A rabbi was killed and another man was injured when a small plane crashed Saturday morning in upstate New York.

The Federal Aviation Administration said two people were on board the Aeronca 7AC aircraft that went down in a wooded area shortly after taking off from Randall Airport in Middletown.

State Police said one man was killed and the other was taken to a nearby hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.


Billy Kabe said he and his friends were in the neighborhood to ride motorcycles when someone came up to him and said, “quick, call 911, a plane just went down.”

He said one man was inside the plane, unconscious. A second was out of the plane, injured but alert.

“All we did was keep talking to him, try to keep him responsive until the emergency response got on scene, which was very quickly,” said Kabe.

(Credit: Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion)

The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion identified the man who died as its president, 54-year-old Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D.

“Dr. Panken led the four-campus international institution of higher learning and seminary for Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR’s campuses in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles and New York provide the academic and professional training programs for the Reform Movement’s rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offer graduate programs for scholars of all faiths,” the organization said in a statement.

He was described as “a distinguished rabbi and scholar, dedicated teacher and exemplary leader of the Reform Movement” who is survived by his wife, two children, parents and sister, who is also a rabbi.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.


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