A chasidic pilot for the Coast Guard Auxiliary crash-landed his Cessna airplane in Cresskill on Thursday after encountering engine trouble, bringing it down in a recreational field and suffering serious injuries.
The pilot, Jack Rosenberg, also known as Yaakov, was doing routine patrols over the Hudson River along with co-pilot Erik Pearson when the engine on his Cessna 172 apparently failed. Authorities hailed Mr. Rosenberg for avoiding injuries on the ground when he crashed in the soccer field in Bergen County.
“If you see where they landed on the very edge of the field, my opinion, they did a damn good job of averting a tragedy by getting over there,” an official told NBC.
Mr. Rosenberg, 44, a father of seven from Spring Valley, N.Y., is a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, a volunteer organization that helps the Coast Guard’s efforts to promote recreational boating safety.
He made headlines in 2006 when he petitioned the Coast Guard to make an exception to rules barring the wearing of visible non-military headgear so that he could wear his kippah during his volunteer work. After New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind took up Mr. Rosenberg’s cause and then-Senator John Kerry wrote a letter on his behalf, the Coast Guard eventually was persuaded to allow him to wear a kippah.
After Thursday’s crash, Mr. Hikind hailed Mr. Rosenberg’s performance in the air.
Mr. Rosenberg broke both legs and was in surgery for more than nine hours, according to Mr. Hikind. It will be three months until he can begin walking again. As of Monday, Mr. Pearson was reported still sedated because of his injuries.
According to the preliminary findings of a Federal Aviation Administration investigation, Mr. Rosenberg had reported a “rough-running engine” and sought to land at Teterboro Airport. He then tried to make an emergency landing in Tenafly but decided against that because the field was full of people, Cresskill Police Chief Ed Wrixon told the Record. In Cresskill, he first sought to land in a baseball field but it too was full of people.
In the end, Mr. Rosenberg crashed near Regan Field behind the Cresskill Swim Club. It happened just hours before youth sports teams were due to practice there.
“If it was another hour from now, this place would have been packed,” Mr. Wrixon said.
Mr. Rosenberg is a member of the Viznitz chasidic sect. He is known for going out of his way to help others.
“All his good deeds came back to him,” said Rabbi Mayer Berger, operations director for Chesed Shel Emes, a Brooklyn-based group that dispatches planes and helicopters to help Jewish families retrieve sick or injured relatives and comply with religious burial laws, speaking to Rockland County’s Journal News. “It’s a miracle.”
Mr. Rosenberg, who has a tire business, is a certified pilot and volunteers for Chesed Shel Emes, which was founded by his brother Mendy. He won wide praise in 2011 when he flew a helicopter to take food and medicine to a group of observant Jews stranded in Killington, Vermont, after roads were washed away by Hurricane Irene.