A small plane has crashed outside New York City, killing a great grandson of Standard Oil co-founder John D Rockefeller, a family spokesman says.
The single-engine plane took off from Westchester County Airport just after 8am on Friday, local time, and narrowly missed a house west of the airfield before hitting some trees, officials said.
Richard Rockefeller, of Falmouth, Maine, was the only person on board the Portland, Maine-registered aircraft.
The 65-year-old was a doctor and father of two, family spokesman Fraser Seitel said. He had recently been working on a way to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in wounded war veterans, Seitel said.
“It’s a terrible tragedy,” Seitel said.
“Richard was a wonderful cherished son, brother, father and grandfather.”
Rockefeller was the son of David Rockefeller, the former chairman and chief executive of Chase Manhattan Bank, now JPMorgan Chase, a prominent philanthropist, and a nephew of former vice-president Nelson A. Rockefeller.
On Thursday, Richard Rockefeller ate dinner with his father in Westchester to celebrate the family patriarch’s 99th birthday, Seitel said.
Seitel described him as an experienced pilot whose death left the family in shock.
The plane, a Piper Meridian, crashed in Purchase, a New York City bedroom community of about 10,000 residents that houses a State University of New York campus.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was investigating and the National Transportation Safety Board was expected to arrive later Friday.
An FAA control tower notified that the aircraft was missing from their radar and an emergency response was initiated.
At the time of the crash, the weather was foggy and visibility was about 400 metres, police and airport officials said at a news conference. Pilots of private planes make the decision about whether to fly in such conditions, officials said.
After narrowly missing the house, the plane hit some pine trees and crashed in a yard. The aircraft broke up into many pieces, which were strewn about the property, with some parts lodged in the trees.