Rockefeller's Plane Narrowly Missed An Occupied Home, Officials Say

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A Harrison Police mobile unit stationed at Cottage Avenue in Purchase near the scene of the fatal plane crash Friday morning.
A Harrison Police mobile unit stationed at Cottage Avenue in Purchase near the scene of the fatal plane crash Friday morning. Photo Credit: Suzanne Samin
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and police officials speak to reporters on the plane crash that killed Richard Rockefeller in a press conference Friday at Westchester County Airport in White Plains.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and police officials speak to reporters on the plane crash that killed Richard Rockefeller in a press conference Friday at Westchester County Airport in White Plains. Photo Credit: Suzanne Samin

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Westchester County officials said the plane crash in Purchase on Friday morning that killed Richard Rockefeller narrowly missed an occupied home.

The 64-year-old Rockefeller, a grandson of world renowned financier and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr., was killed when his single-engine plane crashed near Westchester County Airport in Purchase near Cottage Avenue.

According to officials, Rockefeller, a seasoned pilot, departed Westchester County Airport at 8:08 a.m in his Piper PA-46 Malibu on his way to Portland, Maine, despite inclement weather conditions that included fog and rain.

Rockefeller traveled a mere six-tenths of a mile before the first reports of the crash came in at 8:23 a.m., officials said.

Harrison police chief Anthony Marraccini said the plane narrowly missed a house, which was occupied by multiple people at the time of the incident. No one at the scene was injured.

The plane crashed near the house, which has a barn and a showing area for horses, said Kevin Stewart of Red Cross Disaster Relief Unit. Stewart said that it appears Rockefeller was trying to avoid hitting the house before apparently crashing into a tree.

Westchester County Airport manager Peter Scherrer  said the conditions at the time were a quarter mile visibility, with a 200-foot indefinite ceiling. Several commercial flights were canceled earlier in the day due to weather conditions.

Scherrer said while there was no fire at the scene, the plane broke into many pieces upon impact with trees on the property. Many of the pieces are lodged into the trees.

Scherrer said they could not confirm or speculate the pilot's motives during the crash.

Marraccini added that the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were on the scene investigating.

The airport closed for flights after the crash but flights resumed at 9:45 a.m., according to Scherrer.

Rockefeller was returning home to Portland, Maine from celebrating the 99th birthday of his father, David Rockefeller, at the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills. 

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said it was a shame such a happy occasion as David's birthday is now marked with such tragedy. He added though he did not know Richard personally, but sent the family his condolences earlier in the day.

"The Rockefeller family has played an important role in Westchester history," he said. 

This is third fatality near Westchester County airport in four years, with previous incidents in 2012 and 2011.

For more on Richard Rockefeller, check this Daily Voice story published earlier today.

@suzannesamin

ssamin@dailyvoice.com

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Very sad story, I'm just glad it wasn't even worse.

In the 1970s I worked for a car service at Westchester County Airport and we occasionally took some of the Rockefellers from a private flight to the family estate in Pocantico Hills. They were always very pleasant people to deal with, courteous and friendly. Once when one of the Rockefeller brothers -- possibly David -- didn't have enough cash to pay the fare he invited me inside his home to wait while he looked for money. (Ironic, huh?) His wife offered me fruit while I waited. Very nice people.

My condolences to the family.