Rockefeller Great-Grandson Dies in Small Plane Crash

Richard Rockefeller was returning home from a birthday celebration for his father, David Rockefeller, who turned 99 on Thursday

A great-grandson of Standard Oil co-founder John D. Rockefeller died Friday when the small plane he was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff from an airport in Westchester County, authorities said.

Rockefeller, of Falmouth, Maine, was returning home to Portland, Maine, from a birthday celebration for his father, David Rockefeller, who turned 99 on Thursday, officials said.

The plane went down around 8:15 a.m. a little over half a mile from the airport near Cottage Road in the town of Harrison, which is near SUNY Purchase. Officials said the plane struck several trees and narrowly missed a house before it crashed about 200 yards from the building and scattered into pieces.

Rockefeller was the only person on board. 

The 64-year-old father of two was a doctor who chaired the U.S. Advisory Board of Doctors Without Borders from 1989 to 2010, and served on the board of Rockefeller University until 2006, according to his bio on the Rockefeller Brothers Fund website.

His grandfather, John D. Rockefeller Jr., founded Rockefeller Center, the home of NBC.

"It's a terrible tragedy," said family spokesman Fraser Seitel. "Richard was a wonderful, cherished son, brother, father and grandfather."

The FAA says the plane was a Piper PA-46. Dense fog and low visibility were reported near the airport around the time of the crash. Rockefeller was an experienced pilot who frequented the airport, officials said.

A man whose horses are stabled nearby says his groomer heard the plane crash into a field.

"He just heard the noise, and when he looked, the plane was on the ground," said George Ventricelli.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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