East Hampton Town Police continued to search the Atlantic Ocean this week for the one body still missing after a fatal plane crash off Amagansett last week that claimed the lives of a well-known East Hampton couple, their grandson and pilot.
On Friday afternoon, East Hampton Police Chief Michael Sarlo announced police had located the wreckage of a twin-engine Piper PA31 Navajo that crashed on June 2 about a mile off Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett.
The plane was carrying Bernard “Ben” Krupinski, his wife, Bonnie, and their grandson, William Maerov, of East Hampton, as well as Jon Dollard, their 47-year-old pilot from Hampton Bays.
Police found two bodies in the water the afternoon of the crash. They were later identified as Mr. and Mrs. Krupinski.
According to Chief Sarlo, on Friday the town police dive team, led by Lt. Peter Powers, recovered a third body from the wreckage, which lies in approximately 40 to 45 feet of water with visibility of just three to five feet, according to police.
The identity of the latest victim has not been released pending confirmation from the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The Krupinskis were well known on the East End for various real estate holdings and a string of successful businesses, including his construction company and three popular restaurants in East Hampton. A funeral mass was held Friday for both Mr. and Mrs. Krupinski and Mr. Maerov, drawing hundreds to the East Hampton Presbyterian Church on Main Street.
The search effort for the bodies of Mr. Maerov and Mr. Dollard were interrupted during the days immediately after the crash, when weather kept police from deploying sonar technology to map the wreckage field. Recovery efforts resumed early last week and remained ongoing as of Wednesday afternoon.
Town Harbormaster Ed Michaels was coordinating boats during the search and was assisted by the Suffolk County Sherriff’s Department and the New York State Police through the East End Marine Law Enforcement Task Force, said Chief Sarlo in an email Tuesday.
“We were faced with an extremely challenging and difficult logistical operation, and we continue to evaluate the best options available to us,” said Chief Sarlo, adding outside agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard have offered support during the investigation and recovery effort, with the Coast Guard helping to pinpoint the wreckage field.
“With no eyewitnesses and the initial flight data not providing a definitive coordinate, our search field was very large and became more focused as the FAA was able to provide more data and the Coast Guard was able to make calculations based on tidal sweep,” said Chief Sarlo. “This led us to the area of Atlantic Avenue and ultimately locating the crash site Thursday.”
On Tuesday, Chief Sarlo said most of the wreckage has been salvaged and removed to an off-site location.
“We have put a tremendous amount of man hours and resources into this recovery effort, and we remain hopeful we will be able to recover the final missing victim, as we fully understand the importance to the family for closure with this terrible tragedy,” he said.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the accident. A preliminary report is expected soon, but had yet to be posted to the NTSB website as of press time.
The Krupinski, Bistrian, Maerov and Dollard families have also made a request to the public at large that they turn over any debris discovered on the beach or in the water that could be related to the crash to police.
“If you are boating or beach walking, and find anything you believe may assist the investigation into the plane crash on the ocean at Indian Wells Beach, please contact your local police department,” read a statement from the family. The East Hampton Town Police can be reached at (631) 537-7575. The Southampton Town Police can be reached at (631) 728-3400.