By Victoria Cavaliere
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The great-grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller was killed on Friday when his small plane crashed shortly after taking off from an airport north of New York City, a family spokesman and the Federal Aviation Administration said.
Dr. Richard Rockefeller of Falmouth, Maine, was piloting the Piper PA-46 aircraft when it went down about 10 minutes after takeoff from Westchester County Airport in Purchase, 23 miles (37 km) north of New York City, family spokesman Fraser Seitel and the FAA said.
He was the only person on board, according to an FAA statement.
"This is a terrible tragedy. The family is in shock. Richard was a wonderful and cherished family member," Seitel said.
It was unclear what caused the plane to crash as it took off around 8:10 a.m. on a foggy and rainy morning. An investigation was underway, airport officials said.
Rockefeller had flown to New York from Maine on Thursday to have dinner in Westchester County with his father, banker and philanthropist David Rockefeller, who was celebrating his 99th birthday, Seitel said.
"Richard was an experienced pilot, who had flown for many years," Seitel said.
Family members identified his body this morning, he said.
Rockefeller practiced and taught medicine in Portland, Maine, from 1982 until 2000, has served on the advisory board to Doctors Without Borders and was a former chairman of the Rockefeller Family Fund, according to his biography on the fund's website.
He has two grown children, his biography said.
The crash occurred close to the State University of New York at Purchase, but the wreckage was not on campus grounds, a university police official said.
Dr. Rockefeller was one of six children of David Rockefeller, a former chairman of Chase Manhattan Corporation and grandson of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller.
The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Additional reporting by Richard Valdmanis in Boston; Editing by Eric Beech and Ellen Wulfhorst)