Dr. Richard Rockefeller, son of the billionaire and prominent philanthropist David Rockefeller, was killed Friday when the small plane he was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff, according to a spokesman for the family.
Dr. Rockefeller, 65, was the only person on board the plane, which the authorities identified as a Piper Meridian single-engine turboprop.
The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.
Rockefeller took off from Westchester County Airport in New York at 8:08 a.m., departing into dense fog and steady rain. Less than 10 minutes later, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) notified airport officials that it could not reach the pilot.
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At 8:23 a.m., local police reported that the plane had crashed less than a mile from the airport. It had smashed through several trees and narrowly missed an occupied house before hitting the ground and breaking into pieces, authorities said.
Rockefeller was flying home after visiting his father, David, at the family’s estate in Pocantico Hills, in Mount Pleasant. David Rockefeller’s 99th birthday was Thursday.
David Rockefeller is the oldest living member of the family whose name adorns countless university buildings, hospital wings, libraries and museums across the country.
David Rockefeller is the grandson of John D. Rockefeller, an accounting clerk who invested $4,000 into an oil-refinery business and went on to lead the Standard Oil Co. He became one of the richest and most famous men in the world.
Fraser Seitel, the family spokesman, said Richard Rockefeller was an experienced pilot and had flown in and out of the Westchester airport many times.
Officials from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were sent to investigate the crash.
“The family is in shock,” Seitel said. “This is a terrible tragedy. Richard was a wonderful and cherished son, brother, husband, father and grandfather.”
Rockefeller was a family physician in Falmouth, Maine, who earlier practiced and taught medicine in Portland, Maine. He was married with two children and two stepchildren.
He was chairman of the U.S. Advisory Board of Doctors Without Borders from 1989 until 2010, and served on the board of Rockefeller University until 2006.
In recent years, Rockefeller was working to help establish better treatment for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Seitel said.
He was also a past president of the Rockefeller Family Fund.