By: Kyle James | 06-03-2018 | News
Photo credit: Air National Guard/Rob Rich

Florida - Real Estate Mogul And His Wife Among Dead In Hampton's Plane Crash

A private plane crashed in the Atlantic ocean Saturday with four people on board, a pilot, and three family members. It is believed that Hamptons "Builder to the Stars" Ben Krupinski, 70, is among the dead along with his 70-year-old wife, Bonnie Bistrian Krupinski. Also aboard the doomed flight was their 22-year-old grandson, Will Maerov, and the 47-year-old pilot, Jon Dollard. Krupinski carved a name for himself as a prominent East Hampton builder who built homes for big names such as Martha Steward, Billy Joel, and other stars.

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All four passengers are presumed to have died in the crash. The plane was a Piper PA-31 Navajo and it went down about a mile offshore near Indian Wells Beach at 2:50 p.m., according to officials. The cause of the crash is not currently known but an investigation into the tragic accident has been opened. Local pilot Bill Gardiner noted the weather had turned stormy Saturday before the crash. "There was a very nasty thunderstorm going on," he said. "It was unexpected. There were very strong downdrafts."

The plane had been in the Krupinski family since at least the 1980s, Gardiner added. Between the couple, their real-estate empire is worth a reported $150 million. That figure includes a popular East Hampton restaurant Citta Nuova where workers and patrons gathered Saturday to grieve and mourn the loss.

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Locals affectionately called the couple "Bennie and Bonnie", two high-school sweethearts who were known for their charitable works. The restaurant was shuttered Saturday night with a sign that said it was closing "due to a family emergency." One employee named Jeanne Nielsen said of the Krupinski family, "They were generous beyond belief. They were very philanthropic . . . their grandson Will had worked here for the summer in the past. He was a student at Georgetown"

Nielsen added the couple had a granddaughter who was not aboard the fatal flight. "Their granddaughter, Charlotte, is 15 or 16," she said. "She was not on the plane. She was going to work here this summer." So far, two of the bodies have been recovered by Saturday night, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. It is the second fatal plane crash in the last week. Wednesday a World War II-era plane crashed into the woods in Melville, the pilot of that flight did not survive.

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