Officials released 911 calls on Monday that were made moments after a fiery crash in Massachusetts that killed seven people, including Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz.
Katz’s Gulfstream jet crashed during takeoff at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts Saturday night. The plane had burst through a chain-link fence and toppled part of a runway lighting system.
In 911 calls released Monday, neighbors described a loud explosion and a towering column of smoke.
One caller said it looked like “an atomic bomb went off.”
“It was a mushroom cloud and fire was going everywhere,” the caller said.
“There’s a giant column of smoke and flames,” another said.
The flight crew that died in the fiery crash had flown with Katz, a millionaire businessman and philanthropist, for nearly a decade.
The chief pilot was James McDowell, of Georgetown, Delaware, authorities said. Spouses identified two of the crew members Monday as flight attendant Teresa Benhoff, 48, of Easton, Maryland, and co-pilot Bauke "Mike" de Vries, 45, of Marlton, New Jersey.
"I knew he was on a safe plane. I knew it was a well-maintained plane," de Vries' wife, Shelly, told The Associated Press. "I know the other captain had a great, long history, (and) was also a mechanic."
The Gulfstream IV was registered to SK Travel LLC, based in North Carolina. The company had no open FAA infractions for at least the last five years, according to records obtained by NBC10.
The rest of the victims were identified earlier Katz's neighbor at the New Jersey shore, Anne Leeds, a 74-year-old retired preschool teacher he invited on the trip just that day; Marcella Dalsey, the director of Katz's son's foundation; and Susan Asbell, 67, the wife of a former New Jersey county prosecutor.
The trip would be the last of several over the years the flight crew took with Katz; all three had worked for him for 10 to 15 years, relatives said. They had been expecting to take Katz, a sports team owner-turned-philanthropist, to France later this month, said Benhoff's husband, Dan.
The co-pilot, De Vries, had come to the U.S. from the Netherlands as a young man to attend flight school. In the early 1990s, he was a passenger in a two-man crash that killed a pilot at a southern New Jersey airport, his wife said.
"Lucky for him, he didn't remember it, and he didn't remember about 12 to 24 hours before it," she said. “So he had no fear, she said, and still loved to fly.”
Investigators combed through the debris on Monday at the crash site, searching for clues as to what caused the crash. Tire marks were visible where the jet ran off the runway.
The cockpit was burned but mostly intact, with the nose resting on a hill, and the burned-out fuselage lying in a ravine. The victims' bodies had been removed.
Published at 6:06 PM EDT on Jun 2, 2014
Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia