Bedford, Massachusetts – May 31, 2014 — Billionaire Lewis Katz, the co-owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and three friends, were among the seven people killed when a small plane crashed on Saturday night. The Gulfstream G-IV private jet crashed as it was taking off from Hanscom Field at around 9:40 p.m. It was on its way to Atlantic City International Airport. Two pilots and a flight attendant were also killed. Authorities say the plane failed to get airborne and went through a fence before hitting a gully and catching fire.
According to CNN, Katz was returning to his New Jersey home after attending a fund-raising event held at the Boston-area home of author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.
All of the passengers were from New Jersey. According to Philly.com:
- Lewis Katz, 72, of Longport, was co-owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and former owner of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils
- Susan K. Asbell, 68, of Cherry Hill and Margate, was a member of the planning committee of the Boys & Girls Club of Camden County
- Marcella M. Dalsey, 59, of Haddonfield, was the executive director of The Drew A. Katz Foundation and president of The KATZ Academy Charter School in Camden
- Anne B. Leeds, 74, of Longport, was Lewis Katz’s neighbor and longtime friend, who lived directly across the street. She had been invited on the trip at the last minute.
The flight crew has been identified, according to CBS News:
- James McDowell, 51, originally from Georgetown, Delaware, the chief pilot
- Bauke “Mike” de Vries, 45, of Marlton, New Jersey, co-pilot
- Teresa A. Benhoff, 48, of Easton, Maryland, flight attendant
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator Luke Schiada said a witness reported that the plane “never left the ground” before crashing through a fence and into a gully, immediately catching fire. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) registration information shows that the aircraft was owned by SK Travel, LLC of Raleigh, North Carolina. Information provided by FlightAware indicates that weather likely wasn’t a factor in the crash.
At this time, authorities are uncertain what caused the crash. An investigation is underway. The NTSB will be analyzing the plane’s cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR).
An aviation lawyer familiar with private jet crashes is wondering why a highly sophisticated airplane like a Gulstream IV, with two qualified pilots, ran off the end of a runway at high speed? Ronald L. M. Goldman headed the legal team that represented one of the executives killed in the July 31, 2008 Hawker Beechcraft BAE 125-800A crash at Owatonna, Minnesota. That flight was operated by East Coast Jets. It crashed after pilots attempted a late go-around with an insufficient amount of runway to work with. The flight captain, first officer and six passengers from an Atlantic City, New Jersey entertainment company were all killed in the crash.
Investigating What Went Wrong
June 2, 2014
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is in the early stages of their investigation into last week’s crash of a private jet at Hanscom Field that killed all seven people aboard the aircraft. In order to better understand the role of the NTSB in these types of crashes, we’ve asked Baum Hedlund aviation attorney Ron Goldman to walk us through the aviation accident investigation process and the aftermath.
What will the NTSB be looking for in the early stages of the Hanscom Field crash investigation?
Ron Goldman: In order to figure out what went wrong to cause the Gulfstream IV crash, it will be necessary for the NTSB to retrieve as much of the wreckage as possible, including the so-called “black boxes”, which are actually the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR). Recovering the FDR and the CVR is the most vital first step in piecing together the causes of the crash.
What can the Flight Data Recorder and the Cockpit Voice Recorder tell us?
RG: The FDR will help establish exactly why the airplane did not lift off during its takeoff run. Were the flaps at the correct setting? The FDR can tell. Were the engines developing full power? The FDR can tell. Were the pilots struggling with the takeoff for some reason? It is likely the VCR can tell. Those, and a myriad of other information can be gleaned from the information contained in both black boxes.
How will the NTSB approach investigating the flight crew?
RG: In addition to extensive research into the pilots and their backgrounds, education and training, NTSB investigators will also be interviewing people who can account for the actions of the flight crew in the few days before, and all the time leading up to the crash.
How long will it take for the NTSB to conclude this investigation?
RG: These investigations vary, but usually after months of extensive work, the NTSB will issue a Factual Report with a final description of the accident. A Probable Cause report is also included.
Will the NTSB determine fault in their investigation?
RG: No. The work of the NTSB is geared to probable cause, not fault. The work of the lawyers who will represent the interests of the families of the victims actually picks up where the NTSB leaves off. Lawyers who specialize in aviation disaster cases and wrongful death claims are usually retained to represent families in cases such as this. It is the job of those attorneys to protect the individual interests of the families of the victims; thus, they will seek information as to who or what is to blame for the disaster.
Though it is too early to speculate, what can you say about liability in these types of crashes?
RG: Investigators usually identify more than one contributing cause in these types of crashes. Likewise, attorneys involved in aviation accident litigation often find that more than one person or entity is found to share the blame. What is always clear, however, is that the passengers who suffered the consequences are without any fault. Ultimately, justice for the families of those aboard will depend on the work of the attorneys who will pursue their cases regardless of any difficulties that might be involved in unlocking the true causes of the crash.