Very sad. I do not think that ATC did anything wrong. They in fact tried to help. I believe the pilot was perhaps too casual about the situation. He had an absolute emergency and should have stayed VFR if at all possible. With 2 hours of fuel remaining, he probably could have landed VFR. Hartford wasn't too bad at 1,600', but he'd have to descend through the clouds to get there and that could have been a problem. Vacuum systems suck!!!
Now, with the $900 Stratus there is NO excuse for anyone not to have a digital system
. I have dual GTN750's and dual G500's, plus an L3 digital backup artificial horizon and just started trying the Stratus 2 just for fun and I'm blown away with how good it is compared to my very expensive panel. I believe it would have saved this poor guy's life.
Basic equipment that every pilot should have: Digital ADHRS of some sort - could be ForeFlight on an iPad with Stratus and a floating ePERB. Total cost: 2 to 3 hamburger runs or around $1,200 (not including the iPad as everyone has that already).
The FAA was unbelievable slow in approving backup artificial horizons to replace the 100 year old turn and bank indicator (Sperry won the Colliers Trophy for inventing it in 1916). Now, perhaps they should move fast to mandate that all pilots have some sort of digital back up. Time has come.