Four people, including a prominent New York builder who constructed homes for stars such as Martha Stewart and Billy Joel, were killed Sunday after their plane crashed off the coast of Long Island, police said.
Ben Krupinski, 70 — known as the Hamptons “Builder to the stars” — and his wife, Bonne Bistrian Krupinski, 70, and grandson, Will Maerov, 22, were dead following the crash about 1.5 miles south of Indian Wells Beach just before 3 p.m. Saturday, Long Island Business News reported, citing police. The pilot, Jon Dollard, 47, also reportedly died.
"We are stricken by this loss," said Capt. Kevin B. Reed of the Coast Guard. "Our deepest sympathies go out to the families and loved ones of the two recovered individuals."
The four were on the Piper PA-31 Navajo plane heading to East Hampton Airport when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Amagansett, Long Island, police said. Two bodies were recovered after the crash.
U.S. Coast Guard, East Hampton Town Marine Patrol and private fishing vessels searched through the debris before suspending the search Saturday night. Rescuers resumed the search Sunday morning.
The Federal Aviation Administration was investigating the cause of the crash. Extreme weather was reported in the area when the plane went down.
“There was a very nasty thunderstorm going on. It was unexpected. There were very strong downdrafts,” Bill Gardiner, a local pilot, told the New York Post.
Gardiner added Ben and Bonnie Krupinski had owned the private plane since the 1980s.
The beloved couple known as “Bennie and Bonnie” by local residents had a real-estate empire worth a reported $150 million, according to the New York Post. On his business’ website, Ben Krupinski was described as a man who “earned a reputation for delivering outstanding results” and a member of the greater Hamptons business community for the last 40 years.
In a 1992 New York Times article, Krupinski was called an “ace East Hampton pilot and Contractor to the Stars.”
His completed projects also included the Parrish Art Museum and Southampton. The family owned several restaurants such as 1770 House, East Hampton Point and Citta Nuova.
“They were generous beyond belief,” Citta Nuova employee Jeanne Nielsen told the New York Post. “They were very philanthropic…their grandson Will had worked here for the summer in the past. He was a student at Georgetown.”
Nielson said the family “flew all the time” and were expected to have dinner at Citta Nuova before heading to the movies.
“They were together forever. They were the couple that was together forever,” she added.
The Krupinskis were also involved in politics and threw fundraisers for Republican politicians, Newsday reported. They also made campaign contributions to Lee Zeldin, Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush in the past.
“These are amazing, wonderful people. They’re the heart of East Hampton,” former East Hampton elected official Diana Weir told the news site.