2 found dead following plane crash in New York

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 3:58 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2023 at 12:03 PM CST
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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A small plane crashed near a suburban New York airport, killing the pilot and his passenger, both from the Cleveland area, authorities said Friday.

The single-engine Beechcraft A36 took off from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport just before 5 p.m. Thursday, headed for Cuyahoga County Airport in Richmond Heights, Ohio, but soon experienced engine trouble, officials said at a news conference.

The pilot reported low oil pressure to air traffic controllers and tried to make an emergency landing at Westchester County Airport in White Plains, about 40 miles (63 kilometers) north of JFK, the officials said.

The plane began losing altitude, and the pilot, 40-year-old Boruch Taub, “recognized that he had only a handful of minutes to try to bring the plane to a safe landing,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer. “He was unable to do that.”

The wreckage of the plane was found just before 11 p.m. in a heavily wooded area about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the runway at Westchester County Airport, Latimer said.

The victims’ remains were found near the downed plane, officials said. They were identified as Taub, the owner of MasterWorks Automotive in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and Benjamin Chafetz, 45, of Beachwood, Ohio, who owned a web development company.

Hundreds of police officers, firefighters and emergency medical workers from multiple agencies searched for the plane, but their efforts were hampered by heavy rain, authorities said.

“The weather was impossible,” said Westchester County Emergency Services Commissioner Richard Wishnie. “We could not use the drones that we normally would put up in the air; they were ineffective in the rain.”

Stymied by the weather conditions, officials reached out to the FBI, which brought in special equipment to ping Taub’s and Chafetz’s cellphones, Wishnie said.

Both victims were active Orthodox Jewish community members, and special care was taken to fly their remains home to Cleveland in time for burial before sundown Friday, in accordance with Jewish tradition, officials said.

Latimer said Chafetz was able to communicate with his wife in the minutes before the crash. “He said goodbye,” Latimer said.

The plane crashed near Rye Lake, a part of Kensico Reservoir, which is part of New York City’s water system. Some initial reports indicated incorrectly that the aircraft had landed in the water, Latimer said.

Most of the wrecked plane was on the ground when it was located, but some of it was in the trees, officials said.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.