Richard Rockefeller, great-grandson of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller, died Friday when the single-engine airplane he was piloting crashed in Westchester County, New York.
The 65-year-old Rockefeller was the only one aboard the Piper PA-46-500TP Meridian when it crashed shortly after 8 am. The plane was less than a mile from the airport in White Planes where it had just taken off, airport manager Peter Scherrer said.
“This is a terrible tragedy,” the Rockefeller family said in a statement released by spokesman Fraser P. Seitel. “The family is in shock. Richard was a wonderful and cherished son, brother, husband, father, and grandfather. He was an experienced pilot and respected medical doctor. It is just horribly sad.”
Details about the plane crash are still hazy, but police said the plane crashed in the hamlet of Purchase, narrowly missing a home. Rockefeller was said to be an experienced pilot, though the morning was so foggy that visibility was reduced to a quarter mile.
“He was an experienced pilot who had flown for many years,” Seitel added. “He practiced family medicine in Portland and was very active in working on PTSD.”
Records show that Rockefeller was issued his pilot’s license on May 6, 2010, with the condition that he wear corrective lenses while flying. He was qualified to operate in low visibility, noted Steven Meyers, president of Aviation Safety Experts, based in Bolingbrook, Illinois.
His aircraft, a Piper Meridian, was known for a good safety record, said Rick Lanman, manager of the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport.
“It’s a good airplane. Normally, it’s a safe airplane,” Lanman said.
Richard Rockefeller was reportedly en route to Portland, Maine, after traveling to New York to celebrate his father’s 99th birthday. Rockefeller was a practicing doctor in Portland until 2000, and also taught medicine in Maine from 1982 to 2000.
Like his great-grandfather, Richard Rockefeller was a noted philanthropist. He founded the Health Commons Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving American medicine.
Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration were investigating the plane crash that killed Richard Rockefeller.