Three Indian-Americans, including an 11-year-old boy, were killed when a small family-owned plane carrying them nosedived into the Mohawk river in New York during an afternoon leisure trip.
Albany-based hotelier George Kolath, who hails from Kerala, was entertaining his son and a doctor friend when the Piper Cherokee went down shortly after taking off from the nearby Mohawk Valley Airport on Sunday, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said.
The body of the boy, George Kolath Jr, and that of the doctor, whose name was not released by authorities, were found, Kolath's brother-in-law Anil Paulose said.
However, the body of 42-year-old Kolath, who owns several hotels as well as a USD 40-million "castle" in Albany, was yet to be recovered, local media reports said. The search was stopped due to darkness.
"He stopped for lunch at a small airport and they took off and (after) their takeoff, we don't know what happened," Paulose said. "It (the plane) fell into the water."
Witness Skip Ryan, a pilot who was also waiting to take off, said the plane appeared to lose power in the air, plunging nose-first into the river.
The aircraft, which was registered to Kolath Airlines LLC of Bear, Delaware, sank into some 30 feet of water.
A skydiving instructor at Mohawk Valley Airport said he and others who were in the small airstrip's restaurant heard the crash, ran down the airstrip and jumped into the river.
Paulose said George Kolath was the "most high spirited person I've ever seen. He was so full of energy."
George Kolath Jr, the eldest of six children, was a fifth-grader who played soccer and chess. "I just can't believe it," Paulose said. "I can't take it."
The plane was manufactured in 1969 and is part of the Piper Cherokee family of small planes, made by Vero Beach, Florida-based Piper Aircraft Inc.