Copake Lake man killed in Hudson River plane crash

CEMENTON–Michael Bennett Braunstein, 72, of Copake Lake was killed when the plane he was piloting plunged in to the Hudson River, Thursday afternoon, May 2.


According to, Mr. Braunstein was the owner of a private seaplane base at 181 Golf Course Road.

Shortly after 5 p.m., May 3, State Police divers recovered Mr. Braunstein’s body.


Police say the plane took-off from the Columbia County Airport and that Mr. Braunstein was flying alone.

Police used sonar to locate the debris field associated with the crash and as of noon, Friday divers had discovered parts of the wreckage, including a piece of the tail section in 25-foot-deep water, across a 100-square-foot area.

The aircraft was a Grumman G-44A Widgeon, a World War II seaplane converted into pleasure craft.

Authorities worked from a command post established at the Lehigh Cement Company dock, Friday morning.

The recovery of the plane wreckage will be done by a private firm and the National Transportation Safety Board will take over the investigation into why the plane went down.

Crash witnesses in Germantown, outside taking advantage of the warm, sunny spring day, Thursday, saw the “pontoon” plane go down in the middle of the river between Main Street in Germantown on the east shore and the Lehigh Cement Plant, 120 Alpha Boulevard, off Route 9W in Cementon, south of Catskill, Greene County, on the west shore.

Some witnesses say the plane hit the water, flipped, was on fire and sank.

Crews from Columbia, Greene and Ulster counties along with State Police all took part in the initial emergency recovery effort.

State Police did not send divers into the river Thursday afternoon due to concerns that jet fuel that may have leaked into the river.

Columbia County Control received reports of the plane crash at 4:35 p.m. and dispatched the Germantown Fire Department, Northern Dutchess Paramedics to the river off Main Street, Germantown. Mutual aid was summoned from the Hudson and Livingston fire departments. The Columbia County HazMat Team was also called to the scene.

Initially, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office went to the scene to investigate with the assistance of State Police. The crash scene was later turned over to State Police in Catskill, Greene County, who are now working on the investigation with the Greene County Director of Emergency Services and the Greene and Ulster County Sheriff’s Offices.

The U.S. Coast Guard was advised about the crash and train and river traffic was stopped during the incident.

Fire crews were back in service at 8:28 p.m., Thursday.

To contact Diane Valden email .



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