Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz and six others were killed in the fiery crash of a small business jet shortly after takeoff from an airfield outside Boston on Saturday night.
Katz, 72, was killed four days after he and an associate and close friend, H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, put together an $88-million deal to gain control of the media company that owns the Inquirer, which has a circulation of nearly half a million readers on Sundays.
The Gulfstream IV crashed at 9:40 p.m. as it was departing Hanscom Field, about 20 miles northwest of Boston, heading for Atlantic City International Airport, said Matthew Brelis, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the field.
No one survived the crash, Brelis said. Witnesses said they heard an explosion and saw a fireball spew 60 feet into the air.
"We'll all deeply mourn the loss of my true friend and fellow investor in ownership of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News and Philly.com," Lenfast told the Inquirer. He said that Katz's son, Lewis, would replace his father on the new company's board of directors.
Katz made a fortune in a massive parking empire, as well as banking, billboard and real estate, according to a profile in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Camden, N.J., native, who bought and sold sports teams, was also involved in philanthropy and politics. He was close friend and supporter of former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell.
Katz was a graduate of Temple University and had donated $15 million to the school, which has a building named in his honor
In the business deal that led to control of the Inquirer last week, Katz and Lenfest said they were committed to in-depth journalism and returning the paper to its former glory, said the newspaper's editor Bill Marimow. The paper's circulation and revenue have fallen for years.
In announcing the purchase last week, Katz said their endeavor is "going to be a lot of hard work. We're not kidding ourselves. It's going to be an enormous undertaking. Hopefully, (the Inquirer) will get fatter."
The crash remains under investigation.
One witness, Jeff Patterson, told the Boston Globe he heard the explosion and saw the fireball.
"I thought at the time that someone was trying to break into my house," said Patterson's son, 14-year-old Jared Patterson. "I thought someone was like banging on the door trying to get in."
The airfield, which serves the public, was closed after the crash. Brelis said responders were still on the scene early Sunday morning.
An aviation expert who spoke to New England Cable News said various explanations for the explosion were possible.
"The engine could implode, if you will," said Steve Cunningham of Nashua Flight Simulator. "A turbine wheel could separate, there could be a fire in the combustion chamber. Or a fuel leak could also create a fire of that nature."
Hanscom Field was used by the Army Air Corps and military operations dominated until it became both a military and civilian facility in the 1950s. Massport currently manages it as a regional airport serving mostly corporate aviation, private pilots, commuter air services, and some light cargo.
Contributing: Associated Press.