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The single-engine plane took off from Westchester County Airport just after 8 a.m. Friday and narrowly missed a house west of the airfield before hitting some trees, officials said.
Richard Rockefeller, of Falmouth, Maine, was the only person on board the Portland, Maine-registered aircraft.
The 65-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."