Federal investigators have released some details on the small plane crash in New Jersey that killed two people, including a New York City man who weeks before his death flew to space with William Shatner.
The Nov. 11 crash in a wooded area near Sussex County's Hampton Township took the life of 49-year-old Glen de Vries of New York City, who had traveled to the edge of space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft about a month before his death. Also killed was 54-year-old Thomas Fischer of Hopatcong, New Jersey.
De Vries was an instrument-rated private pilot, and Fischer owned a flight school. Authorities haven't said who was piloting the single-engine Cessna.
A preliminary report released late Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Boards said de Vries and Fischer took off from Essex County Airport in Caldwell and flew for about 18 minutes, reaching an altitude of 6400 feet before the plane began “a steep descending left turn that continued until the flight track data was lost.”
A preliminary examination of the plane’s engine didn’t reveal any mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have prevented the normal operation of the plane, according to the report.
A final report listing a cause for the crash could take a year or more to complete.
De Vries founded Medidata Solutions, a software company specializing in clinical research, and was a trustee at Carnegie Mellon University. He traveled Oct. 13 aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft, spending more than 10 minutes in space after launching along with Shatner and others.
“It’s going to take me a while to be able to describe it. It was incredible,” de Vries said as he got his Blue Origin “astronaut wings” pinned onto his blue flight suit by Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos.
“We are devastated to hear of the sudden passing of Glen de Vries,” Blue Origin tweeted upon learning of his death. “He brought so much life and energy to the entire Blue Origin team and to his fellow crewmates. His passion for aviation, his charitable work, and his dedication to his craft will long be revered and admired.”
De Vries was the vice-chair of life sciences and health care at Dassault Systemes, which acquired Medidata in 2019. He had taken part in an auction for a seat on the first flight and bought a seat on the second trip.
It was Blue Origin’s second scheduled passenger flight, using the same capsule and rocket that Bezos used for his own launch three months earlier.
Fischer owned Fischer Aviation, a family-run flight school, and was its head instructor, according to public reports.