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Jul 13, 2018 11:10 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Report On Krupinskis' Plane Crash Spotlights Weather Concerns And Rollercoaster Final Moments

Two planes had been bound from Newport, Rhode Island, to the Krupinskis' hangar at East Hampton Airport.
Jul 17, 2018 12:57 PM

The National Transportation Safety Board last week issued its first official report on the plane crash that killed Ben and Bonnie Krupinski and two others on June 2, describing steep altitude losses twice before the plane disappeared from radar and crashed into the ocean off Amagansett.

The report says that radar data show the Piper Navajo plummeting from 512 feet above sea level to just 152 feet, briefly disappearing from radar, before climbing back to 532 feet, and then again dropping to 152 feet, and once more regaining altitude before disappearing from radar. The last radar contact data shows the plane was at 325 feet about two miles offshore of Amagansett, the NTSB report said.

The Navajo crashed into the ocean shortly after 2:30 p.m., killing the Krupinskis, their grandson, William Maerov, and the plane’s pilot, Jon Dollard. The bodies of Mr. and Ms. Krupinski, who were both 70, were recovered by searchers the day of the crash and brought to shore by East Hampton Town lifeguards.

East Hampton Town Police scuba divers located the wreckage of the plane on June 8 and recovered Mr. Dollard’s body the following day. The body of Mr. Maerov, 22, has not been found.

The preliminary report says that air traffic controllers in Providence, Rhode Island, had alerted at least one of the two Krupinski-owned planes that were traveling in tandem the day of the crash from Newport, Rhode Island, to East Hampton Airport, about the presence of a strong thunderstorm that was sweeping across the region at the time.

The pilot of the second plane, a Beechcraft Bonanza, told controllers at T.F. Green Airport in Providence that he was planning to fly farther south than originally planned to skirt the southward-moving storm. The NTSB report says that the Bonanza pilot, who is not named in the report, told investigators that he and Mr. Dollard had discussed weather concerns and reviewed weather data prior to taking off from Newport. The two had planned to fly south from Newport until they reached Block Island’s northern shore and then turn west toward East Hampton and fly along the Long Island coastline.

The second pilot said he never spoke to Mr. Dollard during the flight and was unaware of the accident when he landed the Bonanza safely at East Hampton Airport. He did report having to reduce his speed at one point due to turbulence and had flown at 1,000 feet altitude until reaching the airport.

The Navajo had been flying at just 430 feet and had climbed to over 500 feet before experiencing the three steep altitude pitches.

Aviation safety experts said that small planes can experience drastic altitude losses when they encounter strong downdrafts—curtains of cold air that spill out of the high clouds of a thunderstorm—as much as five miles ahead of a strong storm.

“Flying underneath or in one of these storms, you can experience downdrafts with a couple of hundred feet per minute descent rate,” said Richard McSpadden, executive director of the Air Safety Institute, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot and former commander of the Air Force demonstration team The Thunderbirds. “We recommend that you avoid thunderstorms by 20 miles. Altitude is also a good idea. If you have a bit of height, you can withstand those downdrafts.”

The federal report says that the plane’s wreckage was found in about 50 feet of water, sheared into several pieces. Both wings had been ripped off and the roof of the rear cabin peeled away by the impact with the water. Several parts of the seven-seat plane and its motors have never been located, the report says.

The report does not point to any apparent mechanical issues with the plane and says Mr. Dollard was certified to be flying multi-engine planes and had some 3,000 hours of flying experience.

The NTSB is continuing its investigation and will issue a complete report at an undetermined date.

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