Jane Unhjem, a passenger who was killed Sunday when a single-engine plane crashed on Long Island, was a popular assistant school superintendent in Goshen. The effect of her sudden death will be hard to measure, her boss said.
"She was highly respected by a lot of folks in the community," said Daniel T. Connor, superintendent of the Goshen Central School District. "It's going to be a very difficult thing to deal with, especially as we prepare to open our schools."
Unhjem, 60, died at Stony Brook University Hospital several hours after she sustained severe burns in the crash that critically injured her husband Erik, 61, and killed the plane's owner, David J. McElroy, 53, of Orient. It was unclear whether McElroy or Erik Unhjem was at the controls when the plane went down in a Shirley neighborhood, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Brian Rayner said Monday. Both men were licensed pilots.
Connor said Jane Unhjem was in charge of curriculum and instruction for the district and was bright, well-respected and one of its go-to people when it came to new education technologies.
"Her loss is going to have a profound impact for a long time to come," he said.
Grief counselors were on hand at Goshen High School to help staff members and students.
The couple both graduated from Wagner College in Staten Island, according to several social media profiles.
Neighbors of the couple said they have two adult children, Matthew, 25, and Gayle, 27.
Stephen Gallos, who lives next door to the couple in Goshen, said they were "respected neighbors" and Jane Unhjem was widely known in the Goshen community because of her prominence in the village school district.
Earlier in her career, Jane Unhjem worked as a special-education teacher in Orange County and as director of staff development for the Monroe-Woodbury School District, according to her profile on LinkedIn.
"It definitely has affected the entire staff and faculty because she was a long-term employee of ours before she went to Goshen School District," Michael J. DiGeronimo, president of the Board of Education for the Monroe-Woodbury School District, told News12 Westchester on Monday. "She will be really missed by a lot of people."
With Christian Wade and News12