Former Microsoft Vice President Bill Henningsgaard, of Medina, was killed Friday along with his son when the plane they were flying crashed into two houses in a neighborhood in East Haven, Conn.
Two children were believed killed on the ground, according to Connecticut authorities.
Henningsgaard’s death was first reported by The Daily Astorian newspaper in the coastal Oregon town where he grew up, followed by a notice posted by Social Venture Partners, a Seattle foundation he formerly served as chairman, on its website. Officials had not yet confirmed the names of the victims as of late Friday.
Henningsgaard’s brother, Astoria City Attorney Blair Henningsgaard, said he hadn’t received official confirmation, but told The Seattle Times he suspected his brother and nephew were aboard the plane.
The father and his son — identified by Social Venture Partners as Max — were on the East Coast visiting colleges, according to the agency. Connecticut officials said Henningsgaard was set to land at Tweed-New Haven Airport, but missed the approach and attempted a second approach, The Hartford Courant reported. They said there was no distress call from the plane, which the Federal Aviation Administration said was a Rockwell International Turbo Commander 690B, a multi-engine turboprop aircraft.
The bodies of the pilot and a child were found in the rubble, but East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo told reporters that the houses struck by the plane were unstable and crews were unable to get inside to do a full search. They were waiting for the National Transportation Safety Board to arrive before continuing the investigation.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said Friday that two children, ages 1 and 13, were in one house and as many as three people might have been in the plane, The Courant reported.
“We presume there is going to be a very bad outcome,” East Haven Fire Chief Douglas Jackson said.
Bill Henningsgaard is listed as the registered agent of Ellumax Leasing in Medina, according to the Washington Secretary of State’s Office corporations website. Ellumax is the registered owner of the plane that crashed, FAA records show.
Henningsgaard was involved in a previous plane crash. In April 2009, his engine cut out 10 minutes into a flight from Astoria to Seattle with his mother, Edith Henningsgaard-Miller, a former Astoria mayor. The plane crash-landed into the Columbia River.
Standing on the wing of the plane as it sunk into the water, they were rescued by the Columbia River Bar Pilots. Henningsgaard wrote about the experience in a column on the Social Venture Partners website, urging people to reach out to children in the community.
He worked for about 14 years at Microsoft in various sales and marketing roles, including as vice president of sales for the Western U.S., Australia and New Zealand.
After leaving Microsoft, he became heavily involved in local social-service and philanthropy efforts, helping start Eastside Pathways, which works to support the area’s youth from “cradle to career.” He has also served as board member and past board chairman of both Youth Eastside Services and Social Venture Partners, which connects philanthropists and strengthens nonprofits.
Will Poole, former senior vice president of Microsoft’s Windows Client Business, said he and Henningsgaard were acquainted at Microsoft, but it was through Social Venture Partners that they and their families became good friends.
Henningsgaard, “like many of us, saw that we have the sort of business skills that are applicable to working in the nonprofit world and (that we could) help apply the best of what we learned at a company like Microsoft to help these organizations grow and thrive,” Poole said. “He was an effective and truly engaged philanthropist.”
Poole’s wife, Janet Levinger, a founding member and treasurer of Eastside Pathways, said Henningsgaard was “full of energy and really wanted to make a difference in the world. … He walked his talk and took action.”
Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was Henningsgaard’s boss at Microsoft when Henningsgaard served as vice president of worldwide licensing and pricing.
“Bill was a great thinker,” Raikes said. “If you had a tough, strategic challenge to take on, he’d be the sort of person you’d want to partner with.”
Raikes watched as Henningsgaard and his wife became more involved in philanthropy over the years, especially with groups providing opportunities for young people locally.
“He was a great leader at Microsoft,” Raikes said. “But I think, even more so, a greater leader in our community.”
Paul Shoemaker, Social Venture Partners executive connector, called him “an incredibly good, real, honest man, for the community, for his family, for this world.”
“The guy has already done so much for the world. And he was going to do so much more,” he said.
The post on the Social Ventures Partners website said the family is requesting donations to Eastside Pathways partners on behalf of Henningsgaard and to Camp Kiwanilong, in Warrenton, Ore., on behalf of his son, who spent several summers there.”We know you will join the SVP Board and Staff in extending deepest condolences to Bill’s wife and daughters and Max’s mom and sisters, Susan Sullivan, Eleanor and Lucy,” the post said. “They are in our thoughts and hearts.”