NYC restaurant owner recounts fatal East River plane crash

The Queens restaurant owner who was piloting a plane that crashed in the East River last month was finally released from the hospital this week — and spoke for the first time about the wreck that killed one of his close friends.

Joe Oppedisano, the owner of Il Bacco restaurant in Queens, told The Post he underwent 10 surgeries in 30 days since the Oct. 4 smash near the Throgs Neck Bridge  — including operations for a fractured spine, pulverized ankle and heel, plus a complete knee replacement. He also broke 16 ribs and will be in a wheelchair for another month.

Oppedisano, 61, said he had landed his single-engine Cessna on the river hundreds of times. But the day of the crash, he and friends Maggie O’Neil and Jose Urena were returning from lunch in Nantucket when he was preparing to land when a boat suddenly obstructed his path, he said.

He said he struggled to regain altitude to avoid smashing into the craft.

“As I’m landing a 35-foot boat came out right in front of me. I pushed hard on the control to get back up to avoid it,” Oppedisano said. “But I didn’t get enough power to take off again.”

He says he missed the boat, but slammed into a pier near his home, splitting the Cessna 182 open.

“All I could remember, I said: ‘Is everyone OK?’ and Jose said, ‘Yes, I’m OK.’ I asked, ‘Is Maggie OK?’ He said yes.”

“Then next thing I remember, I see a big open hole in my leg and I pass out.”

But in fact, O’Neil was killed in the crash. Urena, who was in the front seat, survived.

“Every night I go to sleep and I think about her. She was our friend,” he recalled tearfully of O’Neil. “We would fly together all the time.”

Oppedisano insisted he has been a “safe pilot for 30 years.”

“There is video of me coming in at full throttle, why would I do that?” he said. “I always land in the back of my house on the water.”

The National Transportation Safety Board, which was investigating the crash, did not return calls for comment Thursday. Oppedisano is yet to speak to investigators, according to his daughter, Tina Marie Oppedisano.


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