Moments before the crash, Mr. Yates, who was piloting the aircraft, acknowledged an altitude alert from the tower with the words, "I am correcting," said Stephen Demko, an inspector with the National Transportation Safety Board.
Mr. Yates unsuccessfully tried to unseat U.S. Rep. Edwin Forsythe, a popular Republican, in 1970, but his strong showing impressed colleagues in the Democratic Party.
Mr. Yates was elected to the state Assembly's Seventh District seat in Burlington County in 1971 and was reelected in 1973 and 1975. In 1977, he was voted into the state Senate. He announced his retirement from the Senate in 1981 when he decided to become vice chairman of Square D, a large industrial-equipment manufacturer based in Chicago.
At the time of his death, he was chairman of Farmers & Mechanics Bank.
Mr. Yates was born and raised in Staten Island, N.Y. His former wife, Ursule Yates, said his mother was a "dynamo" whose interest in politics, particularly women's issues, had a profound affect on Mr. Yates' politics.
As a legislator, Mr. Yates was a proponent of abortion rights and affordable housing.
Burlington City Mayor Herman Costello, who served in the Assembly with him, said Mr. Yates could talk intelligently about the issues and was persistent to the point of frustration in trying to persuade his opponents to agree with him.
"He was without question one of the most intelligent individuals I have ever known," Costello said.
Mr. Yates' brother, Craig, a former mayor of Edgewater Park, said Mr. Yates was able to forge alliances with Republicans to get things done.
In 1981, after announcing his retirement, Mr. Yates said he had learned that "you have to listen to any person or group that's saying anything, for you'll probably learn something. Every issue has more than one side, and there's a lot more merit to any argument than you thought at first glance."
He met his former wife while a student at New Dorp High School on Staten Island when he played Curly in the musical Oklahoma! They had five children. They divorced in 1989.
In 1988, Mr. Yates returned to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study physics and be near his children, Steven and Valerie, who were studying at Harvard Law School.
Mr. Yates then decided he wanted to go law school. He enrolled at the Vermont Law School, and that is where he met Anya Kwiatkowski.
They married in 1991. Mr. Yates graduated from law school, and his wife earned her law degree a year later.
Craig Yates said that his brother and his wife had purchased a home on seven acres on Martha's Vineyard a few years ago, and that Mr. Yates would often fly the family there to spend weekends.
Although Mr. Yates' younger brother, Keith, died in a plane crash in Allentown in 1968, he did not fear flying, Craig Yates said.
Mr. Yates is survived by his sons, Charles D., Roy, Steven and Segei; daughters Valerie and Jessica; seven grandchildren; two half-brothers; and a sister.
Mrs. Yates is survived by her parents, William and Florence Kwiatowski, and a sister.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete.
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* This article contains information from the Associated Press.