Rockefeller family member dies in small plane crash

A police officer stands guard at the entrance to a neighborhood in the town of Harrison, New York, where a small plane crashed June 13, 2014.

Reuters/Adrees Latif

Last Updated Jun 13, 2014 12:51 PM EDT

PURCHASE, N.Y. -- A small plane crashed outside New York City on Friday, killing a great grandson of Standard Oil co-founder John D. Rockefeller, a family spokesman said.

The single-engine plane took off just after 8 a.m. Friday and went down after hitting some trees west of the airfield, Westchester County Airport operations manager John Starace said.

A Red Cross official told CBS New York station WCBS-TV that the plane narrowly missed a house.

"It looks like the plane came over the house, hit a couple of trees very close to the house," the official said. "There is some debris in the trees."

Dr. Richard Rockefeller speaks at a news conference in Portland, Maine, April 12, 1999.
Dr. Richard Rockefeller speaks at a news conference in Portland, Maine, April 12, 1999.
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Richard Rockefeller, of Falmouth, Maine, was the only person on board the Portland, Maine-registered aircraft.

The 64-year-old was a doctor and father of two, family spokesman Fraser Seitel said. He had recently been working on a way to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in wounded war veterans, Seitel said.

"It's a terrible tragedy," Seitel said. "Richard was a wonderful cherished son, brother, father and grandfather."

Rockefeller was a nephew of Nelson A. Rockefeller, the 41st vice president of the United States and governor of New York from 1959 to 1973. On Thursday, he ate dinner with his father, David Rockefeller, in Westchester to celebrate the family patriarch's 99th birthday, Seitel said.

Seitel described him as an experienced pilot whose death left the family in shock.

Starace said the plane, a Piper Meridian, crashed on a road in the hamlet of Purchase, a New York City bedroom community of about 10,000 residents that houses a State University of New York campus.

Rockefeller is survived by his wife Nancy and their children.