Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz, the wife of Longport Commissioner James P. Leeds and a Cherry Hill woman are among seven people aboard a private plane that crashed in a Massachusetts air field and erupted into a fireball were killed, authorities said Sunday.


Lewis Katz holds a trophy after the New Jersey Nets won the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2003 (Ezra Shaw, Getty Images)

Inquirer editor Bill Marimow confirmed Katz's death after hearing the news from close associates according to the Inquirer.

The Press of Atlantic City reports that Anne Leeds was also on board the flight. Her husband told the newspaper that Katz asked her to join him on the trip to Boston to set up an educational program.

CBS Boston reports Katz attended the Concord River Institute's spring fundraiser on Saturday afternoon. According to an invitation on the Institute's website, plans for their future being unveiled at the event. A spokesperson for Doris Kearns Goodwin said Katz and Leeds were at her home for the event.

Leeds says he got a text from his wife from the plane at 9:36 p.m., four minutes before the crash."

NBC 10 is identifying a third victim as Susan Abell from Cherry Hill, the wife of former Camden County Prosecutor Sam Asbell. The fourth passenger on the plane is being identified by New England Cable News as Marcella Dalsey, executive vice president of the Drew A. Katz Foundation and president of the Katz Academy Charter School. Her bio on the school's website says she is a mother of 4.

Harry Hurley, host of "Hurley in the Morning" on Townsquare Media Atlantic City's, WPG Talk Radio 1450 fondly remembers Anne Leeds. "Anne Leeds loved her community, was a big advocate regarding education matters and many other community oriented projects. Anne was a big part and member of one of Longport's most important families. Her sudden loss is so tragic for her family and community to bear. I send my deepest condolences to her fine husband, Longport Borough Commissioner Jim Leeds," said Hurley, who calls James Leeds is a long-time friend.

Jim Peters of the Federal Aviation Administration says a Gulfstream IV aircraft apparently ran off a runway at 9:40 p.m. Saturday as the plane was taking off. Peters said officials told the FAA that the aircraft caught fire. The plane was headed to Atlantic City International Airport.

NTSB Senior Air Safety Investigator Luke Schiada speaks at a press conference (Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images)

At a Sunday afternoon press conference, the National Transportation Safety Board's lead investigator Luke Schiada said his teams is looking for a cockpit voice flight recorder from the plane. Schiada said the plane went down an embankment, struck a localizer antenna struck a fence and beyond that came to a rest in the gully at the edge of the Shawsheen River making it difficult to recover bodies from the plane.

Schiada said that according to a Hanscom employee the plane never left the ground and did not refuel at Hanscom. Schiada confirmed 4 passengers, 2 pilots and a cabin attendant were on board the plane.

Schiada said the Middlesex County District Attorney will release the names of all victims.

Schiada offered no any details on what caused the accident and expects the NTSB to issue a preliminary report in 10 days.

"There were no survivors," said Matthew Brelis, a spokesman for Massport said several hours after the crash. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the people on board and their loved ones."

Nearby residents recounted seeing a fireball and feeling the blast of the explosion shake their homes. Jeff Patterson told The Boston Globe he saw a fireball about 60 feet in the air and suspected the worst for those aboard the plane.

"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."

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."


A federal investigator, left, and a state investigator leave the secure area at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Katz earlier in the week, along with philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest, took over ownership with an $88 million auction bid. Lenfest says the sale will be delayed but will still proceed.

"We all deeply mourn the loss of my true friend and fellow investor in ownership of The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Daily News and," Lenfest said in a statement. . "It is a severe loss, but I am pleased to announce that Drew Katz, Lewis's son, will replace his father on the board of our new company."

Harry Hurley says the public never even heard about most things that Lou did to help others in need. "The sudden and tragic loss of Lew Katz leaves an enormous void that is impossible to fill. Whether it was at the highest professional sports level, to helping numerous local causes, Lou Katz could always be counted upon to always deliver when the chips were down."

Whether it was materially assisting the Margate Jewish Community Center, recalls Hurley, or helping Longport with local projects, if Katz found out that there was a need, he was willing to help fill it. "Lou also stepped up to keep local radio stations on-the-air, when they were in financial jeopardy," said Hurley.

Katz recently made a financial contribution to help the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City run its summer program. "He did such an incredible thing before he died," Atlantic City Councilman Marty Small told the Press of Atlantic City. "His contribution to save the summer program for the children of Atlantic City is something that no on will ever forget. May God keep watch over the Katz family and the people who loved him at this time."

Son Drew said, "My father was my best friend. He taught me everything. He never forgot where and how he grew up, and he worked tirelessly to support his community in countless ways that were seen and unseen," wrote Drew in a statement. "His sudden passing adds to our family’s grief over the recent passing of our beloved mother, Marjorie Katz. We will miss both of them tremendously but will work to carry on the enormous legacy that they both created.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D) in a statement described Katz as a 'full of life’ guy, always optimistic and forward looking, always wanting to push the envelope and do good things for Philadelphia and Camden."

Katz, who grew up in Camden, is a former owner of the New Jersey Nets and New Jersey Devils. "He never forgot his friends or his roots, giving back generously to the city of Camden, Temple University, Dickinson College's law school, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and countless other organizations, said Marimow.

Lewis' companion Nancy Phillips, an Inquirer city editor, was not on board the flight.

Hanscom Field is about 20 miles northwest of Boston. It 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. The airport remained closed on Sunday afternoon


The Associated Press contributed to this report