law enforcement sources

Victims in Small Plane Crash in NY Identified; Off-Duty FDNY Firefighters Were Among Guardsmen Who Rescued Sole Survivor

What to Know

  • The vintage propeller plane had been practicing takeoffs and landings at an airport in the Hamptons when it went down
  • Two people died in the crash but a third man was pulled from the wreckage by a group of Air National Guardsmen
  • The survivor was recovering as the FAA prepared to probe what caused the deadly crash

Two off-duty FDNY firefighters were among the group of U.S. Army National Guardsmen who rescued a pilot from a plane crash on Long Island that killed two others on Sunday. 

Flight instructor Arieh Narkunski, 64, of Brooklyn, and 65-year-old Robert A. Wilkie of Hempstead were both killed when the vintage propeller plane they were in went down near Gabreski Airport in Westhampton on Sunday.

Narkunski's colleague at Airborn Flight Services told NBC 4 that he was doing a flight review with the pilot and owner of the plane, 61-year-old Richard B. Rosenthal. The review is required every two years. 

The group was practicing touch-and-go landings when the plane crashed just before noon at Frances S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, according to the NTSB. 

Rosenthal, of Huntington Station, was rescued by a group of National Guardsmen passing by in a helicopter -- which included two off-duty FDNY firefighters -- and is recovering.

The helicopter with four guardsmen was flying to the Guard's base at the airport for a training exercise when the airport tower told them a small plane had gone down, Newsday first reported

The guardsman and off-duty firefighter who was piloting the helicopter, CW3 Joseph McCarthy, told NBC 4 New York that he saw the survivor trying to escape the flaming wreckage. He said he landed the chopper a few hundred feet from the plane and fellow guardsmen ran out to help the survivor. 

Yaanique Scott, the other off-duty firefighter, said he jumped on the other side of the wing and opened the canopy cover to give the survivor enough room to escape. 

McCarthy said their National Guard helicopter was on the ground within two minutes of the crash; it took another 10 minutes before the other first responders arrived.

"We did what we could to subdue the flames but it was fuel-driven," he said in a statement on the FDNY's Facebook page. "Once fire companies arrived on scene, Firefighter Scott jumped on the hose line and assisted them in further rescue efforts." 

Rosenthal, who works as an attorney in Queens, was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital, officials said.

Scott works with Engine 291 and McCarthy is from Ladder 55.

Julian Zagorodnev, a friend of Narkunski, said colleagues were in tears at the airport Monday.

"It's one of our greatest friends. Everybody knew him around the airport, he was very, very personal with everybody, to student instructors," he said. "He was very knowledgable." 

Chopper 4 video showed the charred wreckage of the plane, a Ryan Navion F, in the woods off runway 33. 

The airport is used by corporations and private plane owners, as well as the 106th Rescue Wing of the Air National Guard. It was built by the federal government in 1943.

The FAA said the National Transportation Safety Board will be in charge of the investigation and determine probable cause of Sunday's crash.

Richard RosenthalRichard Rosenthal
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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