In the minutes before a fatal plane crash on the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Hicksville on Sunday, an air traffic controller offered the pilot several sites for an emergency landing.
"There's a strip right about . . . 3 miles. It's the Bethpage strip right there, and again Farmingdale is about . . . 6 [miles]," the controller at LaGuardia Airport told the pilot of the single-engine plane about 2 minutes before losing contact, according to LiveATC.net, a website that records air traffic activity.
The controller had at first suggested Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, but after the pilot said he was turning back, the controller suggested over several minutes that he try Bethpage, Farmingdale or even the Wantagh State Parkway, according to the audio recording.
The controller also told the pilot that "the Bethpage strip is a closed airport. I just know there is a runway there," according to the audio. The ATC site recorded only the controller's side of the conversation, so it could not be determined what the pilot said.
News 12 Long Island reported exclusively late Monday that the National Transportation Safety Board was interested in reviewing the controller's conversation about Bethpage, because there is no longer a landing strip at the site -- the former location of Northrop Grumman Corp.
The pilot, with one passenger, had taken off from Westhampton Beach bound for New Jersey. The FAA said the pilot was trying to land at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale when he crashed onto the LIRR tracks at South Oyster Bay Road in Hicksville -- just on the Bethpage border -- about 7:45 a.m.
The NTSB said Monday it aimed to have a preliminary report within a week.
The name of the pilot was not officially released. But his widow said Monday that she knew her husband, Joseph Milo, 59, of Westhampton Beach, "did everything in his power to save his passenger and many other lives."
"Because that's the kind of man he was," said Dini Hampton Milo, Joseph Milo's wife of nine years.
The only passenger on the plane was Carl Giordano, 55, an orthopedic surgeon from New Vernon, New Jersey. He was released from Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow Monday after surgery to "repair and stabilize his jaw," hospital spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said.
Retired military rescue pilot Michael Canders said it is up to the pilot in such a situation to decide where to land.
"At every moment you have to know 'Where am I going and where will I land in an emergency?' " said Canders, an associate professor of aviation at Farmingdale State College.
NTSB investigator Daniel Boggs said Monday the plane left Francis S. Gabreski Airport en route to Morristown, New Jersey, and was at a cruising altitude of about 6,000 feet when the pilot told air traffic control at LaGuardia that he was having mechanical difficulty with his Hawker Beechcraft BE35.
At a news conference at Republic Airport, Boggs said he would not speculate on the cause of the crash. He said the plane's wreckage was being examined in a hangar at the airport, and he hopes to interview the survivor in coming days.
Joseph Milo, owner of Joe's American Grill in his hometown, is survived by three children in their 20s, his wife said.
About noon Monday, a single purple candle was left at the entrance of Milo's Montauk Highway restaurant.
John Monti of Westhampton Beach said he had known Joseph Milo for 25 years. He called Milo "a good guy" and a hard worker who was "always in the kitchen," but would sometimes don his chef's outfit to greet customers.
"He was a very hardworking man," Dini Hampton Milo said. "I always said he had four jobs -- the restaurant, flying, plays golf like a job, and me, taking care of me."
"And he did all of them really well," she said, as she choked up. "The world is a little darker without him now," she said. "He was my everything, my rock, why friend. I just lost everything."
She said the last time she saw him, her husband gave her a kiss on the cheek, told her he loved her, and said, "I'll see you in a little bit." With Nicole Fuller