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Oct 14, 2019 8:48 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Last Communication With Krupinski Plane Indicates Pilot Was Unconcerned By Storm

White dots show the track of the Krupinskis' airplane. Weather data from the time of the crash show that the aircraft flew directly into the path of an oncoming storm. NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD
Oct 15, 2019 3:03 PM

The National Transportation Safety Board has updated its accounting of the airplane crash that killed Ben and Bonnie Krupinski in 2018 with information that makes it clear the plane flew directly beneath a passing thunderstorm, its pilot apparently not thinking it would pose a threat.

The "Factual Report" on the crash investigation presents new details of the investigation that indicate the aircraft, a twin-engine Piper PA-31 Navajo, flew directly into the path of a thunderstorm that was moving relatively slowly across the South Fork and that the pilot, John Dollard, was unconcerned about the storm posing a threat to the plane and its three passengers.

In his last radio communication with the aircraft control tower at East Hampton Airport just moments before the crash, Mr. Dollard said the plane was at an altitude of about 700 feet and that he was going to fly beneath the thunderstorm's clouds as he approached the airport, which was then only about 5 miles away.

"I'm showing about 700 feet right now, I'm coming in underneath it — it doesn't look like there'll be an issue," Mr. Dollard is heard saying in a short excerpt from the communication between the plane and the East Hampton Airport tower controller, which is included in the online report from the NTSB.

The report says that there were no further communications from the plane, which crashed moments later about a half-mile off Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett, killing Mr. Dollard, the Krupinskis and their grandson, William Maerov.

An earlier report from the NTSB detailed radar tracking that showed the plane had gone through two steep losses of altitude — recovering to about 500 feet once — before it vanished from radar. The new report, which was filed in July, presents reams of meteorological data that would seem to indicate the thunderstorm the plane flew beneath was likely to have caused strong downdraft winds that could have knocked the plane out of the sky.

The report details a conversation with the pilot of a second Krupinski-owned plane, Frank Pinter, which had flown in tandem with the Navajo to Newport to pick up the Krupinskis' granddaughter, Charlotte Maerov, from boarding school in Rhode Island. The second plane, a single-engine Beech Bonanza, had taken off from the Newport, Rhode Island, airport for the return journey about five minutes before the plane the Krupinskis were riding in, but the Navajo passed it in flight.

Mr. Pinter told investigators that he had discussed the weather with Mr. Dollard prior to taking off but had not communicated with the other plane during the short 58-mile flight. Mr. Pinter reported having seen the thunderstorm to the north and east of the airport and that he kept his plane farther offshore until he was past the storm before turning in toward the airport and landing safely.

He said he had not known that the Navajo had passed him in flight until he heard air traffic controllers trying to hail Mr. Dollard following his last transmission.

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