The twin-engine Piper Navajo in which Bonnie and Ben Krupinski, their grandson, and pilot died on June 2 approaching East Hampton Airport as strong thunderstorms drenched parts of the town had been flying low over the ocean miles closer to the shore when it crashed than the Krupinskis’ single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza, carrying another family member, was flying at the same time.
The Bonanza, which was seen on radar about five miles south of the Navajo’s position, landed safely soon after the Navajo disappeared from radar two miles south of Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett at about 2:30 p.m. Both airplanes were returning from Newport, Rhode Island.
A clue that the Navajo may have flown closer to the intense thunderstorm activity that was moving from north to south over the Amagansett area is contained in a preliminary report on the crash recently posted online by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The report includes only circumstances and facts collected by investigators. “Probable cause” will not be determined by the board until it issues a final report which could take many months.
Both aircraft were operating without a flight plan under visual flight rules. The pilot of the Bonanza, who is not named in the report, told investigators that “he and the accident pilot talked” on the ground at Newport for “about one hour regarding the weather between them and the destination airport,” the NTSB reports. “They planned to both fly south” to Block Island before turning west “to follow the shoreline” from Montauk to East Hampton Airport, according to the NTSB.
The Bonanza took off first “and the Navajo was going to follow,” the NTSB reports “After takeoff, the Bonanza contacted Providence air traffic control (ATC) and was informed that there was a ‘bad storm’ near [the airport] and it was moving slowly. The Bonanza pilot told ATC that he wanted to fly farther south over the ocean and try to miss the approaching storm, so he could stay VFR,” or in visual meteorological conditions. “He did not know what happened to the Navajo as he did not hear the accident pilot communicate on the radio.”
The Bonanza pilot told the NTSB that he conducted the flight at an altitude of 1,000 feet and slowed down due to turbulence and landed at East Hampton Airport under visual conditions.
The NTSB reported that instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site while visual conditions prevailed at the airport.
Radar recordings show the Navajo had been flying “in front of the Bonanza by five miles over the Atlantic Ocean and south of” the airport, the NTSB reported.
The radar data shows the Navajo varying in altitude from 432 feet about six miles from the airport to 512 feet to 152 feet before climbing to 532 feet then descending back to 152 feet. The last radar target showed the Navajo at 325 feet about two miles south of Indian Wells Beach. The main wreckage was later found about one mile from the beach in 50 feet of water.
In addition to the Krupinskis, the crash claimed the life of pilot Jon Dollard and the Krupinski’s grandson, William Maerov.