WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Two Cleveland area residents are dead after a small plane bound for Northeast Ohio disappeared and later crashed while approaching a suburban New York airport Thursday evening.
On Friday morning, Westchester County officials gave an update following the deadly plane crash.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer confirmed that the victims were 55-year-old Binyamin Chafetz of Beachwood and 55-year-old Baruch Taub of Cleveland Heights.
Preliminary information indicates the pilot of a single-engine Beechcraft A36 reported possible engine issues before air traffic controllers lost radio and radar contact with the plane around 6:15 p.m. near the Westchester County Airport, Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Elizabeth Isham Cory said.
According to Westchester County Department of Emergency Services Commissioner Richard Wishnie, Thursday night's weather made the search for the plane difficult, as it was impossible to use drones to locate it.
The FBI was able to assist in the search and ping the cell phones of the victims to help find the location of the plane. Within minutes of pinging the phones, officials were able to locate the victims and plane.
The plane was flying from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to the Cuyahoga County Airport in Richmond Heights, Cory said. She said the aircraft lost contact with controllers less than two miles from the Westchester airport. It's near White Plains, about 39 miles north of JFK.
The bodies of the victims, who were Orthodox Jews, were flown back to Cleveland on Friday in order to be buried before sundown.
“Because of the religious affiliation of these folks, and the need to recover the bodies and have them buried by sundown today, we all felt the compassion and concern to help remove the bodies as quickly as possible, have the medical examiner do what he has to do. I’m pleased to report that the bodies have been released and are now being flown to their home in Cleveland where they’ll be buried in the appropriate fashion as their religion desires,” said Wishnie.
A funeral service for Taub will be held on Sunday, Jan. 22 at 9:30 a.m. at Berkowitz-Kumin-Bookatz in Cleveland Heights. The funeral service for Chafetz was held at 2 p.m. on Friday at Berkowitz-Kumin-Bookatz.
“At the end of the day, two lives were lost, and we owe them respect because they lost their lives… Anything could have happened to you or me at 5 o’clock last night. It happened to them, but it could’ve been us," said Latimer.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are both investigating the incident.
The plane had been scheduled to leave JFK Airport at 4 p.m., but did not take off until 4:58 p.m. The aircraft had been scheduled to arrive at Cuyahoga County Airport at 7:03 p.m.
Registration records show the aircraft is owned by Daviation Inc. from Willoughby.
This is a developing story and will be updated.