A prominent builder, known for erecting mansions in the Hamptons for wealthy celebrities, was aboard a small plane that crashed off the coast of Long Island on Saturday.
East Hampton Police say Bernard Krupinski, 70, his wife Bonnie Krupinski, 70, their grandson William Maerov, 22, and pilot John Dollard, 47, were on the plane when it crashed.
Krupinski, a East Hampton native, was a well-known businessman who built luxury homes for Martha Stewart and for Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley, among others, according to his website. A 1992 New York Times profile called him “Contractor to the Stars.”
The Piper PA31 Navajo plane went down Saturday afternoon about a mile off of Indian Wells Beach, according to a statement from the US Coast Guard. The beach is in Amagansett, near the eastern tip of Long Island.
Two bodies have been recovered and two people are still missing. The Coast Guard suspended its search for the two missing people on Sunday afternoon.
“Following a tireless search for the two individuals who remain missing, it is with deep sadness that we are suspending the active search efforts,” said Capt. Kevin B. Reed, the local Coast Guard commander. “This is always a difficult decision, and we cannot imagine the pain of those families who have lost their loved ones.”
The Coast Guard along with state and local agencies searched for more than 33 hours and covered a 646 square-mile area trying to locate those missing.
Police say the identities of the deceased will not be released until there is confirmation from the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office.
Extreme weather was reported in the area at the time of the crash, the East Hampton Police Department said. The cause of the crash is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
In a statement to CNN, Stewart said she was devastated by the news.
“Ben and Bonnie were my friends from the moment I met them in the early 1990s,” she said. “I was fortunate to work with ‘Builder Ben,’ as I always called him, on the renovation of my 1878 home in East Hampton.”
“I loved his ability to problem solve and build beautiful homes. Together they were generous philanthropists and supporters of East End businesses. Bonnie became my dear friend and always exuded charm and practical good sense.”
Her statement also mentioned the Krupinskis’ grandson, William Maerov, whom she described as an “outstanding young man — very curious, well educated, well traveled and a delight to be with.”
“I spent a lot of time with Will, advising him on business plans and together we planned his grandparents’ 70th birthday party last summer. His potential was lost in this very unexpected way.”
Billy Joel said that Krupinski helped him with his East Hampton house project in the 1980s when construction progress stalled due to bad management. “He was always a gentleman and a fair person to deal with. I liked him personally very much, as well,” Joel said in a statement.
“Ben and Bonnie were always quietly doing good things for the community. They will be greatly missed in this part of Long Island.”
US Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-New York, described the Krupinskis as a “larger-than-life couple everyone knew, loved, and respected.”
“They will be dearly missed by their family, friends, employees, and neighbors who adored them, their vision, love of flying, entrepreneurship, and devotion to the east end of Long Island.”
The couple’s commitment to their community was recognized when they were awarded the East Hampton Lions Club’s “Citizens of the Year” award in 2017.
“Bonnie and Ben Krupinski were two great pillars of our community, who embodied the values of our town: generosity, warmth, charity, kindness, and hard work,” said Amos Goodman, chairman for the East Hampton Town Republican Committee. “They were personal friends to many, myself included. The apparent loss of life of those aboard the plane today is devastating and cruel.”