East Hampton Town Police continued to search this week for two of the victims of a plane crash on Saturday afternoon in the ocean off Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett that claimed the lives of four: Bernard “Ben” Krupinski, 70, and his wife, Bonnie, 70, their 22-year-old grandson, William Maerov, and pilot Jon Dollard, 47, of Hampton Bays.
Two of the bodies, still not publicly identified, were found in the ocean on Saturday.
Two police marine patrol vessels were headed from Montauk on Wednesday morning, with police divers and side scan sonar equipment on board, to investigate what police think may be an underwater wreckage field, East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo said.
“We anticipate weather and sea conditions to improve, so we are hopeful we may pinpoint wreckage today, with a goal of activating the recovery and salvage plan by tomorrow,” said Chief Sarlo in an email.
The U.S. Coast Guard also is conducting daily flyovers.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating. It was expected to issue a preliminary report in a week to 10 days. A full report giving a probable cause could take months.
On Saturday, June 2, at approximately 2:50 p.m., the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound received a call that contact had been lost with the twin-engine Piper Navajo PA 31, flying into the East Hampton Airport from Rhode Island with the Krupinskis and their grandson on board, along with their pilot.
At the time, strong thunderstorms had just moved across the South Fork from north to south. According to the Coast Guard, a commercial fishing vessel located a crash site in the Atlantic Ocean roughly a mile and a half off Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett. On Saturday afternoon, East Hampton Town lifeguards recovered two victims.
Multiple agencies sent personnel and equipment to Amagansett in an effort to aid in the search, rescue and recovery effort Saturday afternoon and evening, including East Hampton and Southampton town police departments, the Air National Guard, the East Hampton Town Ocean Rescue Squad and East Hampton Town Police Dive Team, along with state and county police, town marine patrols, the Amagansett Fire Department and EMS.
On Sunday, the Coast Guard and other agencies suspended their search because of high winds and rough seas. On Monday, Chief Sarlo said authorities were committed to continuing the search effort for the remaining two victims once weather improved.
“We are going to spend a couple of hours today working with data we have received from commercial fishing vessels, the Coast Guard and our own marine patrol vessels and Sea Tow to try and better map out what appears to be a wreckage field on the bottom close to where the incident occurred,” Chief Sarlo told the East Hampton Town Board during a work session on Tuesday.
“We are hoping to be able to drop some physical markers to map out that area so when conditions break we can maximize the use of our time and shrink down the search area and hopefully pinpoint where the remaining wreckage is. We are hoping to be able to recover the remaining two missing victims at this point as well.”
Chief Sarlo said both town police departments were continuing shoreline patrols from East Hampton to Southampton, with dive teams from both towns on standby for when the wreckage is discovered.
“From all of us at the police department, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families,” said Chief Sarlo at Tuesday’s meeting. “Obviously, the Krupinskis and the Bistrians are a major part of our community and were extremely supportive of all the first responders in our community.”