Debris Recovery Resumes in Crash That Killed Greenhill Managers

Investigators resumed recovering debris today from the New Jersey plane crash that killed all five people aboard, including two managing directors of Greenhill & Co. (GHL)

About 40 percent of the wreckage of the single-engine plane that plunged onto a highway in northern New Jersey yesterday, killing Jeffrey F. Buckalew and Rakesh Chawla, had been recovered by dark last night, said Robert Gretz, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board. Debris was spread over a half mile (800 meters), he said.

Buckalew’s wife, Corinne, and two children, Jackson and Meriwether, were believed to be aboard the plane, according to a statement from New York-based advisory firm Greenhill. Three adults and two children on the plane haven’t yet been positively identified, Gretz said at a briefing last night. A dog on the plane was killed, he said.

The Socata TBM 700 turboprop plane, which seated six people, took off from Teterboro, New Jersey, at 9:50 a.m. and crashed about 14 minutes later after the pilot discussed icing conditions with flight controllers, Gretz said. The plane was en route to DeKalb-Peachtree Airport near Atlanta, according to flightaware.com.

There was “moderate” to “severe” icing in the area the Socata was flying through, air-traffic controllers said in recordings posted on the LiveATC.net website.

The plane belonged to Buckalew, according to Greenhill’s statement. The address on Buckalew’s FAA license was the same address for Cool Stream LLC, the registered owner of the Socata. He had been awarded his private-pilot’s license since at least January 2002, and the certificate was updated in June 2010 to let him fly a single-engine airplane and use instruments for takeoff and landing, according to U.S. Federal Aviation Administration data. His last medical check was in July.

Traveling on Business

Buckalew, 45, led Greenhill’s North American advisory activities. He started at the firm in 1996, the year it was founded, after working at Salomon Brothers, according to the company. Chawla, 36, was a managing director for the financial- services sector. He joined Greenhill in 2003 from Blackstone Group LP.

The executives were traveling on business for Greenhill, said a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information hadn’t been made public.

“The firm is in deep mourning over the tragic and untimely death of two of its esteemed colleagues and members of Jeff’s family,” Chairman Robert Greenhill and Chief Executive Officer Scott Bok said in the statement yesterday. “Jeff was one of the first employees of Greenhill. He and Rakesh were extraordinary professionals who were highly respected by colleagues and clients alike.”

Crashes on Interstate

The plane crashed on Interstate 287 in Harding, New Jersey, about 35 miles west of Manhattan, state police said on Twitter. Witnesses told the New York Daily News that the plane appeared to have broken up in flight. A tree-cutting service was to be brought in today to retrieve parts of the plane lodged in a tree, Gretz said.

The Socata reached about 126 knots as it climbed and then slowed to 90 knots about 10 a.m., according to flight data captured by flightaware.com.

The plane’s stall speed is about 80 knots, meaning it might have gone into a spin or tumble and that the pilot’s efforts to recover may have overstressed the wing, said Bill Waldock, a professor of safety science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s campus in Prescott, Arizona.

“Ice is going to be a factor they will look at and why it started slowing down,” Waldock said. “If the plane had much ice, that’s going to increase drag tremendously, further slowing the plane.”

Personal Aircraft Accidents

There were 852 accidents in the U.S. involving personal aircraft during the first 10 months of this year, killing 279 people, according to a Dec. 1 report from the National Transportation Safety Board. There were 25 commercial aircraft accidents in the period, mostly involving turbulence and none of which caused fatalities or substantial damage, the report shows.

Buckalew, who received a bachelor’s degree and master’s in business administration from the University of North Carolina, advised on transactions in various industries, including VF Corp.’s $1.97 billion purchase of Timberland Co., Bok said in an e-mailed statement.

“Jeff was a wonderful man,” Craig W. Ashmore, who leads M&A strategy for Emerson Electric Co., said in an e-mailed statement. “He was an exceptional banker who gave Emerson insightful advice, and he was even-tempered, thoughtful and just fun to be around.”

Buckalew often won the company’s annual summer golf outing, Bok said in the statement, and Golf Digest had named him among the top golfers in finance.

Greenhill’s Planes

Chawla received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Bok said in the statement. He helped advise the U.S. Treasury Department on managing and disposing of the government’s majority stake in American International Group Inc., the New York-based insurer bailed out during the 2008 financial crisis, according to Bok.

Greenhill owns a plane used by employees for business travel and by Robert Greenhill and his family for business and personal travel, the firm said in a March regulatory filing. Greenhill personnel also use airplanes owned by the chairman for business travel, the filing shows.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mary Jane Credeur in Atlanta at mcredeur@bloomberg.net; Laura Marcinek in New York at lmarcinek3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Scheer at dscheer@bloomberg.net

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