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Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner among seven dead in Massachusetts plane crash

BEDFORD, MASSACHUSETTS (Reuters) - Lewis Katz, the co-owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, was among seven people killed when a private jet caught fire and crashed as it tried to take off near Boston.

Authorities have yet to release names of the six other people killed in the Saturday night plane crash at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts, about 20 miles (35 kms) northwest of Boston.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident, said they included three other passengers, two pilots and a cabin attendant.

Luke Schiada, an NTSB senior air safety investigation officer, said it was too early to speculate on what caused the accident that occurred at about 9:40 p.m. Saturday as the flight attempted to make its way back to Atlantic City.

"We haven't ruled out anything, but there is no reason to suggest it was anything but an accident," he said at a Sunday afternoon news conference.

The plane rolled into the grass, struck an antenna that is part of the airport's instrument landing system, crashed through a chain link fence, then down an embankment into a gully with water about 2,000 feet (600 meters) from the end of the paved surface of the runway. The jet's remains were fragmented and partially burned after "a significant post-crash fire," Schiada said.

Schiada, who traveled from New York to head up the investigation, said that one witness had told authorities that the aircraft had never left the ground.

Authorities were still removing the remains of the passengers from the site and searching for the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder on Sunday afternoon, Schiada said.

The Inquirer said that Katz had flown to Massachusetts for a benefit at the home of noted historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and her husband.

Katz and business partner H.F. Lenfest last week bought out their partners for $88 million, gaining control of the media company that owns the Inquirer.

"We've lost a great friend," Inquirer editor Bill Marimow said in a statement to the newspaper.

Katz, 72, also co-owned Philadelphia's Daily News and Philly.com, and was formerly the owner of the professional basketball team, the New Jersey Nets, and professional hockey team the New Jersey Devils, the newspaper said on its website.

"Lewis Katz's death won't derail the sale of the Inquirer, Daily News & Philly.com," the paper said on its Twitter feed.

Lenfest told the newspaper: "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."

Sharon Williams, the Hanscom Field director, said that families of the victims were being notified and more information would be released as it became available.

"Lewis was a humble, soft spoken guy with a big heart who never forgot where he came from or how he achieved success," Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Victoria Cavaliere and Chris Michaud in New York, Jon Herskovitz in Austin and Dave Warner in Philadelphia; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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