As recovery crews comb for clues into a small plane crash that killed two men in Westchester County, the heartbreaking final moments of the doomed flight are being pieced together.
The single-engine plane, an A36 Beechcraft Bonanza, took off from JFK Airport just before 5 p.m. Thursday and was en route to Cuyahoga County Airport in Richmond Heights, Ohio, the FAA said. Pilot Boruch Taub brought friend Ben Chafetz — a mechanic who owned a repair shop called Masterworks — to New York for a funeral.
The pair was flying home to Cleveland when a sudden emergency sprang up. The pilot reported having low oil pressure at 5:25 p.m., and then reported engine problems as the plane was about a mile from Westchester County Airport. Taub put in a distress call to air traffic control.
"We are losing oil pressure, this is an emergency," Taub said over the radio.
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The plane was also losing altitude. Then, the maydays came in.
"Do you have engine power right now? Are you able to maintain altitude?" an air traffic controller asked Taub.
"No, the engine is overriding… Mayday, mayday, mayday," came the response.
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Just minutes later, the airport in White Plains lost contact with the aircraft. The plane was in the air for just 30 minutes after taking off from the NYC airport.
The aircraft crashed into a heavily wooded area less than two miles short of the airport, where Taub had hoped to make an emergency landing. The area, near the northern tip of Rye Lake on Cooley Hill Road in Armonk, is surrounded by water.
Officials said the use of drones typically needed in such a recovery operation was not possible. It took first responders hours to find the plane, the location of which was only determined after pinging the cell phones of the men on board.
It was with his cell phone that one of the men sent a message for his wife, Westchester County Executive George Latimer said.
"I don't think any of us want to contemplate what it would be like to know your life is about to and, and you are going to speak to the people you love the most. And try to say something to them to summarize the life you've had together. That is what last night was about," Latimer said Friday.
At 5:27 p.m., Chafetz texted "I love you and the kids. I am sorry for everything I have done...We lost engines."
The plane went down at 5:28 p.m.
"As the plane was traveling, it was losing altitude because of the malfunction, or whatever is ultimately determined to be the reason, and the pilot recognized that he had only a handful of minutes to being the plane to a safe landing. He was unable to do that," Latimer said.
Rabbi Ely Skorski told NBC New York that Chafetz, his friend, meant to send that message to his wife, but it mistakenly went to a community group text.
"Where exactly it landed, I don't think it landed in the place where it was intended," Skorski said.
Skorski remembered Boruch and ben as good-hearted members of the community.
"Ben Chafetz was always doing for other people, he had a kind, gracious attitude," he said. "He took people into his home to live there, who didn't have good situations. Just good, kind people."
The bodies of both men were flown back to Cleveland.
Authorities continue to investigate how the plane, the tail number for which traces back to T&G Flying Club in Ohio, came down and what caused the engines to fail.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will investigate. Recovery of the debris will likely take a few days. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide any updates.