WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (WJW) — Moments before his plane crashed, passenger Binyamin Chafetz tried to contact his wife by phone. “He was saying goodbye,” New York authorities said Friday.
The aircraft carrying Chafetz and piloted by Boruch Taub, both from the Cleveland area, was headed to the Cuyahoga County Airport when it went down Thursday night, killing both.
The small, single-engine Beechcraft A36 reported low oil pressure at 5:20 p.m. Thursday, and Taub sought out the nearby Westchester County Airport in White Plains to attempt an emergency landing.
The plane crashed at about 5:38 p.m. in the heavily forested area near Rye Lake, less than two miles from the airport runway, Westchester County authorities told reporters Friday.
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The plane took off Thursday from John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens and was bound for Cuyahoga County Airport in Richmond Heights, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Responders searched for hours by air, land and water, and an ongoing thunderstorm made the response difficult and drones ineffective. Responders ultimately used cellular phone location data to pinpoint the location of the crash, according to Westchester County Executive George Latimer.
They found the wreckage in a tree nearly five hours later, and confirmed the deaths of Chafetz and Taub.
Latimer said investigators learned Chafetz tried to contact his wife by phone in the final minutes before the crash.
Taub and Chafetz were “members of the Orthodox religious community,” Latimer said. Their bodies are currently being returned to Cleveland to be buried according to their religious tradition, he said.
“They leave a hole at their dinner table, in their homes. They leave a hole in their communities — communities of faith,” Latimer said.
“Let us pray for Mr. Taub. Let us pray for Mr. Chafetz and their families,” he later added.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA will continue to investigate.