The Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz was killed along with six other people in a fiery plane crash in Massachusetts, the newspaper's editor said on Sunday.
Bill Marimow confirmed Katz's death to Philly.com, saying he learned the news from close associates.
The Gulfstream IV crashed as it was leaving Hanscom Field at about 9:40pm on Saturday for Atlantic City, New Jersey. There were no survivors.
The identities of the other victims were not immediately released. Nancy Phillips, Katz's longtime companion and city editor at the Inquirer, was not on board.
Officials gave no information on the cause of the crash. They said the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.
The 72-year-old Katz was one of two business moguls who bought out their partners last week with an $88m bid for The Inquirer, which also operates the Philadelphia Daily News and the news website Philly.com.
The winners vowed to fund in-depth journalism to return the Inquirer to its former glory and to retain its editor, Marimow.
"It's going to be a lot of hard work. We're not kidding ourselves. It's going to be an enormous undertaking," Katz said then, noting that advertising and circulation revenues had fallen for years. "Hopefully, [the Inquirer] will get fatter."
Katz, who grew up in Camden, New Jersey, made his fortune investing in the Kinney Parking empire and the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network in New York. He once owned the NBA's New Jersey Nets and the NHL's New Jersey Devils and was a major donor to Temple University, his alma mater.
The fight over the future of the city's two major newspapers was sparked last year by a decision to fire the Inquirer's Pulitzer Prize-winning editor. Katz and HF "Gerry" Lenfest wanted a judge to block the firing. Katz sued a fellow owner, powerful Democratic powerbroker George Norcross, saying his ownership rights had been trampled. The dispute culminated last week when Katz and Lenfest, a former cable magnate-turned-philanthropist, bought out their partners.
Nearby residents saw a fireball and felt the blast shake their homes.
Jeff Patterson told the Boston Globe he saw a fireball about 60 feet high and suspected the worst.
"I heard a big boom, and I thought at the time that someone was trying to break into my house because it shook it," said Patterson's son, 14-year-old Jared Patterson. "I thought someone was like banging on the door trying to get in."
The air field, which serves the public, was closed after the crash. Responders were still on the scene on Sunday morning.
Hanscom Field is about 20 miles north-west of Boston. The regional airport serves mostly corporate aviation, private pilots and commuter air services.
BEDFORD — A private plane carrying seven people ran off a runway Saturday night at Hanscom Field and burst into flames. All seven died, officials said.
The plane, a Gulfstream IV headed to Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey, was departing from Hanscom Runway 11 at about 9:40 p.m., according to Jim Peters, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Sharon Williams, the Hanscom Field director, said early Sunday morning that families of the victims were being notified.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to them tonight,” she said.
The identities of the victims were not released early Sunday. Williams did provide any other information about the victims.
The plane exploded in a blast that sent a fireball and a large plume of black smoke into the air, said Bedford resident Jeff Patterson, 43, who lives beside the runway. The flames rose 60 feet in the air, he said. His 14-year-old son, Jared, said the explosion rattled the house.
“I heard a big boom, and I thought at the time that someone was trying to break into my house because it shook it,” said Jared Patterson. “I thought someone was, like, banging on the door trying to get in.”
Firefighters arrived quickly at the scene and were able to extinguish the flames in a short time, the Pattersons said. Still, the damage to the plane was extensive.
From parking lots behind office buildings on Hartwell Avenue in Lexington, smoke could be seen rising from the airport grounds at the end of the runway, lit by floodlights and flashing emergency lights.
The airport was closed after the crash as emergency personnel arrived, according to Matthew Brelis, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority.
Williams said the airport would remain closed indefinitely. She also said that more information would be released around 8 a.m. Sunday.
Peters said the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate, and that the NTSB would determine the probable cause of the accident.
Police and firefighters from Bedford and Lexington were at the scene Saturday night, along with a hazardous materials team, police officials said.
An ambulance could be seen driving toward the runway about an hour after the crash. Otherwise, the runway was dark. An American flag fluttered in the cold wind. Smoke from the crash could be smelled several miles to the southeast in Lexington. It hung in the air in the streets closer to the crash.
Two state troopers stood guard at a gate at an entrance to the airfield early Sunday morning, occasionally waving in vehicles, which then drove past several small planes, and down an access road into the darkness along the airfield.
The main entrance to the civilian airfield at the Air Force Base was closed off by state troopers.
L.G. Hanscom Field was built during World War II on 500 acres of land in the towns of Bedford, Concord, Lexington, and Lincoln, according to MassPort.
The facility operates jointly as a public general aviation airport and as a resource for the adjacent Hanscom Air Force Base. Officials said the plane was on Bedford property.