Katz, trustee and alumnus, dies in plane crash

Lewis Katz, co-owner of the Philly Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com died while in a plane that went down in a fireball shortly after taking off.


Temple trustee Lewis Katz died Saturday night in a plane crash in Massachusetts.

Katz, 72, was one of seven people on a private Gulfstream IV who died after the plane veered off the runway and into a gulley before erupting in flames at Hanscom Field around 9:45 p.m. Saturday. Hanscom Field is roughly 20 minutes northwest of Boston and is attached to Hanscom Air Force Base. Authorities have not released details as to what may have caused the crash.

Among the other passengers were Katz’s neighbor Anne Leeds, 74, the wife of Longport, N.J. commissioner James P. Leeds, and Marcella Dalsey, 59, executive director of the Drew A. Katz Foundation and president of KATZ Academy Charter School.  Susan K. Asbell, 68, of Cherry Hill and Margate, N.J., was the other passenger. Asbell served on the planning committee for the Boys & Girls Club of Camden County.

According to the Associated Press, the three crew members had known and worked for Katz for at least 10 years. The pilot was James McDowell, 51, of Georgetown, Del. and the copilot was Bauke “Mike” de Vries, 45, of Marlton, N.J.  Flight attendant Teresa Ann Benhoff, 48, of Easton, Md., was also on board.

Katz reportedly invited Anne Leeds last-minute when the two met on the beach Saturday, according to philly.com. He had also invited former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who declined due to a prior engagement.

New England Cable News reported on their website that the National Transportation Safety Board, a federal entity which investigates transportation accidents, had arrived at the scene. The bodies could not be pulled out of the wreckage until the NTSB arrived.

In a press conference held June 1, the NTSB’s Senior Air Safety Investigator Luke Schiada said the plane went off the end of a 7,000-foot-long runway and went through an antenna and some grass before crashing through a chainlink fence and into the gulley. A witness told Schiada that the plane never left the ground. Schiada said the NTSB would not know the truth of that statement until they investigated further.

In a news conference held June 2 at 5 p.m., Schiada said the NTSB and other personnel from the Federal Aviation Administration and Gulfstream Aerospace were looking for a voice recording box from the cockpit that may give clues as to what went wrong in the final moments before the crash.

After that briefing, the NTSB found the voice recording and flight data boxes in the cockpit, blackened but intact. In a press conference June 3, Schiada said the plane reached takeoff speed of about 190 mph but never left the ground. The two pilots were trying to apply the brakes.

A 49-second voice recording was recovered from the site and will be analyzed in the NTSB’s Washington office.

At the crash site, blackened debris was spread out over 2,000 feet and the air smelled of burning fuel, according to philly.com.

John Guilfoil, a spokesman for the police department in Bedford, a town near the field, told the New York Times that emergency crews from the surrounding towns heard reports of a plane crash and arrived on the scene to find the plane in flames. The fire was put out quickly, Guilfoil said.

The Fox News outlet in Boston reported that prior to boarding the plane, which was headed to Atlantic City, N.J., Katz attended a fundraiser at the Concord, Mass. home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin, known for her biographies of U.S. presidents. Goodwin’s family said she and Katz were friends for more than 20 years. The event was to raise money for the Concord River Institute, a school founded by Goodwin’s son Michael Goodwin.

Katz graduated from Temple in 1963 with a biology degree and was a trustee since 1998, serving as chairman of the Athletics committee. In November, Katz pledged $25 million to the university and last month Katz announced the donation would go to the School of Medicine. In response, Temple was set to rename the school the Lewis Katz School of Medicine.

On Sunday, the university released a statement reflecting the responses of high-level Temple administrators.

“This is an incalculable loss for Temple, for Philadelphia and for all those who knew and cherished their relationship with Lewis Katz,” Temple’s President Neil Theobald said in the statement.“Lewis has been a trusted advisor to Temple presidents and members of its board of trustees for years.”

Trustees Chairman Patrick O’Connor was on the Board with Katz for all 16 years of Katz’s tenure.

“Temple has lost a great supporter, and I have lost a valued friend,” O’Connor said in the university statement. “The death of Lewis Katz is truly a tragedy for this university and this city.”

In partnership with fellow trustee H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, Katz won shared control of the Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, Philly.com and other media subsidies in a closed auction of the companies last week.

Katz’s co-ownership of the local media companies will be continued by his son, Drew Katz, Lenfest said.

In a statement released Sunday, Drew Katz said his father focused on strengthening local education.

“But his greatest accomplishment by far was being the most amazing father to my sister and me, and grandparent to his four grandchildren,” the statement read. “My father was my best friend. He taught me everything.”

“[Katz] was a devoted and strong supporter of our medical school mission, and someone whom I came to know well and was honored to call my friend,” said Larry R. Kaiser, dean of Temple’s School of Medicine.

Katz was a former owner of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. He made his fortune from investments in parking and the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network, a cable TV station which focuses on the New York Yankees baseball team, of the American League. Before a home game today against the Minnesota Twins, the Yankees held a moment of silence for Katz and showed his picture on their scoreboard.

Bill Bradshaw, who served as the university’s athletic director from 2002-2013, told The Temple News that Katz was a consistently strong advocate for the athletic department.

“He was not only a great financial supporter, but he gave his time and his efforts to athletics through the years,” Bradshaw said. “The tragedy is a kick in the gut. When you know somebody and you worked closely with them, it just hits you.”

Marcus McCarthy  and Joe Brandt can be reached at news@temple-news.com.

Andrew Parent contributed reporting.

1 Comment

  1. We are deeply saddened by the news that Trustee Lewis Katz died in a plane crash Saturday night. After the cuts to the varsity teams were announced last December, Lew pledged his personal support for the men’s gymnastics team at Temple to help finance its operations next year. TU Men’s Gymnastics offers condolences to his family in this difficult time.

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