Search for cause of jet crash that killed seven people outside Boston

Hunt for flight recorders that could hold key to deaths of newspaper co-owner, friends and crew

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 June, 2014, 10:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 1:36am

An airport employee watched as the Gulfstream jet raced past the end of a runway, plunged down an embankment and erupted in flames.

The witness account of the Saturday night crash that killed all seven people aboard, including Lewis Katz, co-owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, provided some of the first clues as investigators began piecing together what went wrong during the attempted take-off from a runway surrounded by woods outside Boston.

Luke Schiada, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator, said they were looking for the plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder and would review the pilots' experience and the aircraft's maintenance history. He said investigators were also looking for surveillance video that may have captured the crash at Hanscom Field.

"We're at the very beginning of the investigation," Schiada said. The plane was carrying four passengers, two pilots and a cabin attendant, according to the board.

Katz, 72, was returning to New Jersey from a gathering at the home of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Also killed was Anne Leeds, a 74-year-old retired nursery school teacher and next-door neighbour he had invited to accompany him, and Marcella Dalsey, the director of Katz's son's foundation. A fourth person who died was identified in reports as Susan Asbell, 68.

The identities of the other victims were not immediately released. Nancy Phillips, Katz's long-time partner and city editor at the Inquirer, was not aboard.

Katz made his fortune investing in parking lots and the New York Yankees' cable network. He once owned the NBA's New Jersey Nets and the NHL's New Jersey Devils and in 2012 became a minority investor in the Inquirer.

Less than a week before the crash, Katz and Harold Lenfest struck a deal to gain full control of the Inquirer as well as the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly .com by buying out their co- owners for US$88 million.

Lenfest said the deal would be delayed but would still go through. Katz's son, Drew, will take his father's seat on the board of directors, Lenfest said.

The event at Goodwin's home in Concord, Massachusetts, was held to support an education initiative by Goodwin's son. Afterwards, Katz, Goodwin's friend of nearly 20 years, joined the author and others at dinner, where they talked about their shared interests, including journalism, Goodwin said.

"The last thing he said to me upon leaving for the plane was that most of all what we shared was our love and pride for our children," she said.

Leeds' husband James, of Longport, New Jersey, said he received a text from his wife four minutes before the crash saying they were about to take off.