2 dead after small plane crashes near county airport; pilot reported low oil pressure

A pilot and his passenger were found dead overnight after their small plane crashed near Westchester County Airport on Thursday, officials confirmed Friday morning.

A single-engine plane lost radio contact with the airport while trying to make an emergency landing and went off the radar around 5:30 p.m., police said. Officials said the plane was located in a deeply wooded area near north of the airport just before 11 p.m., after hundreds of first responders searched for hours.

At a news conference Friday morning, Westchester County Executive George Latimer confirmed the identity of the pilot as Boruch Taub and the passenger as Ben Chafetz, both from the Cleveland area. They were found near the wreckage of the private single-engine plane.

The plane left John F. Kennedy International Airport at about 5 p.m. Latimer said Taub reported that he had low oil pressure during the first half-hour of the flight. An air traffic controller stayed in contact with Taub until Westchester County Airport lost contact with him at 5:30 p.m. and the plane disappeared from radar.

The plane was reported down at 5:38 p.m., Latimer said.

"The pilot realized he had only a handful of minutes to try to make a safe landing," Latimer said. "He was unable to do that."

Taub owned Masterworks Automotive & Transmission, fixing cars in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

The location of single-engine plane crash near Westchester County Airport on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Officials said the plane was located in a deeply wooded area near north of the airport just before 11 p.m., after hundreds of first responders searched for hours.
The location of single-engine plane crash near Westchester County Airport on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Officials said the plane was located in a deeply wooded area near north of the airport just before 11 p.m., after hundreds of first responders searched for hours.

Details: Two Cleveland-area men die in Armonk plane crash: See passenger's last words

Chafetz, of Beachwood, Ohio, owned a web-development company, 121eCommerce, which has developed websites for Fortune 500 companies. He had seven children with his wife, Smadar.

Chafetz was able to communicate with his wife during the final minutes of his life, Latimer said.

The wreckage was found at 10:55 p.m., almost two miles north of the airport, in an area known as Loudon Point, adjacent to Rye Lake, Latimer said. He said the heavily wooded area made the search difficult.

The wreckage was found after the FBI provided equipment to ping the cell phones of the victims, said Richard Wishnie, the county's commissioner of emergency services.

Latimer said because the two men were of the Orthodox Jewish faith, every effort was made to respect their traditions. Their bodies were released and were on a plane back to Ohio Friday morning.

Frank Milazzo of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection said the area will be closed off for several days while the wreckage is removed. A National Transportation Safety Board representative is en route to the area. The area it will be closed until recovery of the wreckage is complete and the NTSB has completed its investigation on the ground.

Police block the entrance to an office park on King Street in Armonk on Jan. 20, 2023 near where a small plane crashed a mile from  Westchester County Airport on Thursday evening. Two people died in the crash.
Police block the entrance to an office park on King Street in Armonk on Jan. 20, 2023 near where a small plane crashed a mile from Westchester County Airport on Thursday evening. Two people died in the crash.

According to Kieran O'Leary, spokesman for the county police, the plane, which is a Beechcraft Bonanza BE36, took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport at 4:58 p.m. Its initial destination was Cuyahoga County Airport in Richmond Heights, Ohio.

When Taub reported to JFK Airport that he had a warning light for low oil pressure at 5:25 p.m., JFK's command advised him to go to Westchester County Airport.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection was also involved in the rescue because Rye Lake is a city reservoir. Connecticut authorities were also notified, O'Leary said.

Participants at a Friday news conference said the weather hampered search efforts.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer and other officials speak Jan. 20. 2023 about the small plane crash that killed two people near Westchester County Airport Thursday evening.  The crash less than two miles from the airport as the pilot was attempting to make an emergency landing after reporting a mechanical problem.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer and other officials speak Jan. 20. 2023 about the small plane crash that killed two people near Westchester County Airport Thursday evening. The crash less than two miles from the airport as the pilot was attempting to make an emergency landing after reporting a mechanical problem.

"It was pouring rain, it was dark, it was a very difficult search," Latimer said.

"The weather was impossible, and drones were ineffective in the rain," added Richard Wishnie, the county's commissioner of emergency services.

Latimer closed the conference by stressing the human tragedy, noting that the crash came days after a tractor-trailer fell off an I-287 overpass in Harrison.

"The human element is what I am thinking about today," he said. "Let us pray for Mr. Taub and Mr. Chafetz."

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Two dead after small plane crashes near county airport