Officials are investigating a small plane crash and fire Sunday in North Lindenhurst. A passenger was killed and the pilot and other passenger were seriously burned, according to officials on Monday. NewsdayTV's Pat Dolan reports. Credit: Newsday/James Carbone; Paul Mazza, Kenneth DeFreitas, Kelie Watson; Photo Credit: Getty Images / aviation-images.com

This story was reported by John Asbury, Robert Brodsky, Matthew Chayes, Lisa L. Colangelo and John Valenti. It was written by Brodsky.

The "mayday" distress call came into the Republic Airport control tower shortly before 3 p.m. and was repeated seven more times in rapid succession.

It was the last communication the tower would have with the doomed Piper PA-28 aircraft before it fell from the sky after a 39-minute flight and crashed Sunday afternoon in a wooded section of a residential North Lindenhurst neighborhood, killing one person and critically injuring two others.

Late Monday, Suffolk police identified the victim who lost her life as Roma Gupta, 63, of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, and the two critically injured as her daughter Reeva Gupta, 33, of St. Davids, Pennsylvania, and the pilot, Fayzul Chowdhury, 23, of the Bronx.

Reeva Gupta and Chowdhury were fighting for their lives, listed in critical condition Monday at Stony Brook University Hospital.

The cockpit recording, published by LiveATC.net, which publishes air traffic control broadcasts from control towers and radar facilities, provides a window into the harrowing last moments before the single-engine plane went down.

The frantic pilot tells the air traffic controller that there's "smoke in the cockpit" and that he requires an immediate landing. The tower then tells the pilot to continue straight and that he's cleared to land on Runway 32, about 2 miles away. 

The line then goes silent for about 9 seconds before the pilot gets back on the line, repeating the word "mayday," while indicating there is a fire on board the plane.

The pilot is not heard from again as the tower reports an "emergency in progress." Another voice says there is a plume of smoke about a mile from the end of the runway.

The pleasure flight was booked through Groupon by the mother and daughter, according to Oleh N. Dekajlo of East Meadow, an attorney for Danny Waizman Flight School at Republic Airport, which owns and operates the plane. Groupon didn’t respond to questions about its deal with the flight school.

The aircraft, Dekajlo said, had undergone 50-hour and 100-hour inspections on Feb. 27 and Jan. 4, respectively, and was in working order.

“It was an experienced, certified flight instructor that was doing what they call a demonstration flight," Dekajlo said. "So it was, apparently, a mother and her daughter that were onboard. And, apparently, there was an emergency that was declared.”

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, said the pilot declared an emergency while returning to Republic Airport in East Farmingdale just before 3 p.m.

Surveillance video from nearby buildings shows the plane descending and colliding with trees in a wooded area before its final approach to the airport, according to the NTSB, which is recovering the wreckage before bringing it to an off-site facility for further investigation.

Michael F. Canders, aviation center director at Farmingdale State College, said he trains his students on the Piper PA-28 and that the aircraft is commonly — and safely — used for pleasure excursions.

But he said the plane requires "a great attention to detail," particularly at low altitude when preparing to land.

"You have to really pay attention and really make sure that you are watching the airspeed; watching the altitude and making sure you're not coming too close or too fast to the runway," Canders said. "It's a higher risk environment during the landing."

The pilot in Sunday's crash has been flying with the school for almost a year, Dekajlo said.

According to records, Reeva Gupta is a neurosurgery physician assistant at Mount Sinai West Hospital in Manhattan. 

A man who answered the phone at the Gupta family's New Jersey home declined to comment, asking for privacy.

Mount Sinai Hospital employees, meanwhile, have created a fundraising page to help offset the family's medical costs, along with transportation and lodging expenses. As of Monday evening, it had raised more than $61,000.

A preliminary Federal Aviation Administration report on Monday had earlier erroneously indicated that the person killed in the crash was a member of the flight crew.

Danny Waizman "is considered one of the safest flight schools at Republic," Dekajlo said. "This is not a fly-by-night, with one airplane, running out of his home. It actually has a physical office, and they have a fleet of aircraft that are very well maintained."

But this is not the first crash for the flight school in recent years.

In April 2019, a single-engine Cessna that was rented to the flight school crashed in a Valley Stream neighborhood with three men on board after running out of fuel in dense fog.

The pilot and passengers, all from South Korea, walked away virtually unscathed and no one on the ground was hurt, even though the plane came to rest just feet from a home after clipping a church and getting tangled in power lines.

There have been 54 plane crashes involving personal aircraft on Long Island since 2012, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Of those crashes, 13 were fatal crashes that killed a total of 23 people, accident data shows.

In total, since 2012, there have been seven plane crashes at Republic Airport; none were fatal. Additionally, before Sunday, there were two nonfatal crashes involving planes that departed from Republic, and two fatal crashes that departed from there. One fatal crash took place in Farmingdale, with the other in 2018 in Melville involving a stunt pilot, the NTSB said.

The plane in Sunday's crash took off from Republic with three people on board at 2:18 p.m., according to John Rowan, the Suffolk County Police Department’s chief of detectives.

“That aircraft was attempting to return to Republic Airport, where unfortunately it did not make it,” Rowan said during a news conference Sunday near the scene around Wellwood Avenue. 

Nobody on the ground was hurt.

Kenny Stallone, chief of the North Lindenhurst Fire Department, said his team arrived on the scene within minutes of the crash and found that the victims had been pulled from the wreckage by civilians.

The victims, Stallone said Monday during a news conference near the crash scene, sustained severe burns, bruises, cuts and scrapes. 

The pilot, he said, was conscious and able to confirm to EMTs that there were three people on board the plane. He was later intubated by emergency personnel, Stallone said.

The victims were transported to Stony Brook by police medevac.

Despite the fatality, the crash, which occurred in a wooded area near several homes, could have been much worse, said Farmingdale State's Canders.

Pilots, he said, are trained to always consider where they can land in an emergency, such as a fire or engine failure, to avoid injuring or killing people on the ground.

"It is densely populated on Long Island, so we teach them to look for places that you may have to land the aircraft — open areas where there's not many trees and not a lot of houses," Canders said. "Get to a large football field or a park. That's part of the teaching."

Stallone suspects the pilot picked the wooded area to avoid striking any homes in the area.

"We are fortunate for that" he said, "because this could have been a lot worse."

The "mayday" distress call came into the Republic Airport control tower shortly before 3 p.m. and was repeated seven more times in rapid succession.

It was the last communication the tower would have with the doomed Piper PA-28 aircraft before it fell from the sky after a 39-minute flight and crashed Sunday afternoon in a wooded section of a residential North Lindenhurst neighborhood, killing one person and critically injuring two others.

Late Monday, Suffolk police identified the victim who lost her life as Roma Gupta, 63, of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, and the two critically injured as her daughter Reeva Gupta, 33, of St. Davids, Pennsylvania, and the pilot, Fayzul Chowdhury, 23, of the Bronx.

Reeva Gupta and Chowdhury were fighting for their lives, listed in critical condition Monday at Stony Brook University Hospital.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The pilot of a single-engine plane that crashed in North Lindenhurst Sunday issued a mayday call in his last communication with air traffic controllers as he was approaching Republic Airport.
  • The plane was a pleasure flight, hired by a mother and daughter.
  • Two of the three people on board are still in critical condition at Stony Brook University Hospital. One died at the scene.

The cockpit recording, published by LiveATC.net, which publishes air traffic control broadcasts from control towers and radar facilities, provides a window into the harrowing last moments before the single-engine plane went down.

The frantic pilot tells the air traffic controller that there's "smoke in the cockpit" and that he requires an immediate landing. The tower then tells the pilot to continue straight and that he's cleared to land on Runway 32, about 2 miles away. 

The line then goes silent for about 9 seconds before the pilot gets back on the line, repeating the word "mayday," while indicating there is a fire on board the plane.

The pilot is not heard from again as the tower reports an "emergency in progress." Another voice says there is a plume of smoke about a mile from the end of the runway.

Demonstration flight gone wrong

The pleasure flight was booked through Groupon by the mother and daughter, according to Oleh N. Dekajlo of East Meadow, an attorney for Danny Waizman Flight School at Republic Airport, which owns and operates the plane. Groupon didn’t respond to questions about its deal with the flight school.

The aircraft, Dekajlo said, had undergone 50-hour and 100-hour inspections on Feb. 27 and Jan. 4, respectively, and was in working order.

“It was an experienced, certified flight instructor that was doing what they call a demonstration flight," Dekajlo said. "So it was, apparently, a mother and her daughter that were onboard. And, apparently, there was an emergency that was declared.”

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, said the pilot declared an emergency while returning to Republic Airport in East Farmingdale just before 3 p.m.

Surveillance video from nearby buildings shows the plane descending and colliding with trees in a wooded area before its final approach to the airport, according to the NTSB, which is recovering the wreckage before bringing it to an off-site facility for further investigation.

Michael F. Canders, aviation center director at Farmingdale State College, said he trains his students on the Piper PA-28 and that the aircraft is commonly — and safely — used for pleasure excursions.

But he said the plane requires "a great attention to detail," particularly at low altitude when preparing to land.

"You have to really pay attention and really make sure that you are watching the airspeed; watching the altitude and making sure you're not coming too close or too fast to the runway," Canders said. "It's a higher risk environment during the landing."

The pilot in Sunday's crash has been flying with the school for almost a year, Dekajlo said.

According to records, Reeva Gupta is a neurosurgery physician assistant at Mount Sinai West Hospital in Manhattan. 

A man who answered the phone at the Gupta family's New Jersey home declined to comment, asking for privacy.

Mount Sinai Hospital employees, meanwhile, have created a fundraising page to help offset the family's medical costs, along with transportation and lodging expenses. As of Monday evening, it had raised more than $61,000.

A preliminary Federal Aviation Administration report on Monday had earlier erroneously indicated that the person killed in the crash was a member of the flight crew.

'Could have been a lot worse'

Danny Waizman "is considered one of the safest flight schools at Republic," Dekajlo said. "This is not a fly-by-night, with one airplane, running out of his home. It actually has a physical office, and they have a fleet of aircraft that are very well maintained."

But this is not the first crash for the flight school in recent years.

In April 2019, a single-engine Cessna that was rented to the flight school crashed in a Valley Stream neighborhood with three men on board after running out of fuel in dense fog.

The pilot and passengers, all from South Korea, walked away virtually unscathed and no one on the ground was hurt, even though the plane came to rest just feet from a home after clipping a church and getting tangled in power lines.

There have been 54 plane crashes involving personal aircraft on Long Island since 2012, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Of those crashes, 13 were fatal crashes that killed a total of 23 people, accident data shows.

In total, since 2012, there have been seven plane crashes at Republic Airport; none were fatal. Additionally, before Sunday, there were two nonfatal crashes involving planes that departed from Republic, and two fatal crashes that departed from there. One fatal crash took place in Farmingdale, with the other in 2018 in Melville involving a stunt pilot, the NTSB said.

The plane in Sunday's crash took off from Republic with three people on board at 2:18 p.m., according to John Rowan, the Suffolk County Police Department’s chief of detectives.

“That aircraft was attempting to return to Republic Airport, where unfortunately it did not make it,” Rowan said during a news conference Sunday near the scene around Wellwood Avenue. 

Nobody on the ground was hurt.

Kenny Stallone, chief of the North Lindenhurst Fire Department, said his team arrived on the scene within minutes of the crash and found that the victims had been pulled from the wreckage by civilians.

The victims, Stallone said Monday during a news conference near the crash scene, sustained severe burns, bruises, cuts and scrapes. 

The pilot, he said, was conscious and able to confirm to EMTs that there were three people on board the plane. He was later intubated by emergency personnel, Stallone said.

The victims were transported to Stony Brook by police medevac.

Despite the fatality, the crash, which occurred in a wooded area near several homes, could have been much worse, said Farmingdale State's Canders.

Pilots, he said, are trained to always consider where they can land in an emergency, such as a fire or engine failure, to avoid injuring or killing people on the ground.

"It is densely populated on Long Island, so we teach them to look for places that you may have to land the aircraft — open areas where there's not many trees and not a lot of houses," Canders said. "Get to a large football field or a park. That's part of the teaching."

Stallone suspects the pilot picked the wooded area to avoid striking any homes in the area.

"We are fortunate for that" he said, "because this could have been a lot worse."

Latest videos

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME