PHILADELPHIA — 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 this morning.
Bill Marimow confirmed Mr. 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 9:40 p.m. Saturday for Atlantic City, N.J. There were no survivors.
The identities of the other victims weren’t immediately released. Nancy Phillips, Mr. 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.
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 Mr. 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 this morning.
Hanscom Field is about 20 miles northwest of Boston. The regional airport serves mostly corporate aviation, private pilots and commuter air services.
Mr. Katz, 72, was one of two business moguls who bought out their partners last week with an $88 million 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, Mr. Marimow.
“It’s going to be a lot of hard work. We’re not kidding ourselves. It’s going to be an enormous undertaking,” Mr. Katz said then, noting that advertising and circulation revenues had fallen for years. “Hopefully, (the Inquirer) will get fatter.”
Mr. Katz, who grew up in Camden, N.J., 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. Mr. Katz and H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest wanted a judge to block the firing. Mr. Katz sued a fellow owner, powerful Democratic powerbroker George Norcross, saying his ownership rights had been trampled. The dispute culminated last week when Mr. Katz and Mr. Lenfest, a former cable magnate-turned-philanthropist, bought out their partners.