Two respected members of the Cleveland-area orthodox Jewish community lost their lives in a small plane crash in Westchester County, New York, on Thursday evening.

Earlier that afternoon, Boruch Taub, 40, and Binyamin “Ben” Chafetz, 45, both were traveling in a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza A36. The two had traveled to New York City for a funeral and were now returning home. They took off from JFK Airport a few minutes before 5 p.m., with Taub piloting the plane and Chafetz in the passenger seat.

However, by 5:25 p.m., they had reported engine trouble to air traffic control. Five minutes later, they contacted Westchester County Airport to say that they had low oil pressure and were going to attempt to make an emergency landing there.

They never made it.

Lightening and pouring rain made searching for the plane difficult, as drones are ineffective at surveying landscapes with such low visibility. So search and rescue teams had to do so on foot. They spent considerable time and effort scouring local bodies of water, believing that they would have received reports if the plane had crashed on land. Ultimately, they discovered the plane around 11 p.m. that night in a tree located less than two miles from WCA.

Though Taub and Chafetz never made radio contact after that last report about oil pressure, they did manage to send hurried messages to loved ones via WhatsApp. Between 5:27 and 5:28, Chafetz wrote at least five messages that appear to be directed at his wife, Smadar, but that were reportedly sent to a seder group instead:

  • “I love you and the kids”
  • “I am sorry for everything I have done”
  • “Aay rehillim”
  • “We lost engines”
  • “Call and have the community say [Tehillim]” (the Book of Psalms)
Taub’s and Chafetz’s bodies were both recovered and quickly transported back to Cleveland for burial before sunset on Friday, in keeping with Jewish custom. Members of Chaverim of Rockland, a volunteer Jewish emergency organization in New York, partnered with local, state, and federal law enforcement to ensure that their remains were treated with “proper” Jewish honor, the Yeshiva World reported. Chafetz’s funeral will be held on Friday and Taub’s on Sunday.

Taub, who owned an automotive and transmission shop in Cleveland Heights, is survived by his wife, Shoshanah, and at least five children. Chafetz was a tech entrepreneur from Beachwood. He and his wife, Smadar, have seven children. According to the owner of the plane, both men were experienced pilots.

“He was a very kind person, giving person, involved in the community,” Rabbi Yitzchok Margareten of Congregation Shomre Shabbos in Cleveland Heights said of Taub. “(He) was always available to do anybody a favor of any kind. He was a big family man and was a wonderful father to his children, a wonderful husband, a wonderful person, really.”

“It sounds cliché, but they were pillars,” Chafetz’s neighbor Chaikel Kaufman said. “They were here and active in the community for such a long time. This is just devastating.”

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