The explosive fireball that enveloped the private Gulf Stream IV, two-engine jet as it attempted takeoff from runway 11 at Bedford’s Hanscom Field Saturday night—killing all seven on board—was so intense that fumes and smoke were detectable as far away as Cambridge and Boston's Back Bay.
Public reaction to the tragedy, appearing on Facebook and Twitter, carried reports from residents in neighboring Lexington and Lincoln being forced in doors and prevented from walking their dogs, or thinking twice about taking a pre-bedtime stroll.
Universal Hub, a reliable and well-curated participatory news site maintained by Adam Gaffin, carried reports by users of “strong”, “burning”, and “toxic” smells permeating parts of North Cambridge and Porter Square, as well as the Fenway, and Roxbury – a good 20 miles away.
The crash occurred at approximately 9:40 pm on Saturday.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the cause of the crash. According to published reports, as of Sunday afternoon, the NTSB had four investigators on the scene.
The co-owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, 72-year-old Lewis Katz, was among the seven people killed in the plane explosion. Katz was in Concord, MA this Saturday attending a Kearns-Goodwin educational fundraiser. Inquirer editor Bill Marimow told his newspaper that Katz was on board the private jet headed for Atlantic City.
Early Sunday, the Boston Globe reported the plane caught fire shortly after it took off. The paper quoted witnesses to the event:
"The plane exploded in a blast that sent a fireball and a large plume of black smoke into the air, said Bedford resident Jeff Patterson, 43, who lives beside the runway. The flames rose 60 feet in the air, he said. His 14-year-old son, Jared, said the explosion rattled the house.
"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 Jared Patterson. 'I thought someone was, like, banging on the door trying to get in.'
"Firefighters arrived quickly at the scene and were able to extinguish the flames in a short time, the Pattersons said. Still, the damage to the plane was extensive."
According to the Inquirer, "Katz made his fortune investing in the Kinney Parking empire and the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network in New York. He once owned the NBA's New Jersey Nets and the NHL's New Jersey Devils and is a major donor to Temple University, his alma mater.
"'Lewis Katz was an exceptional man, whose presence enriched the lives of everyone he came in contact with,' said Marimow, the Inquirer's editor. '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.
'He loved his family and his friends and they loved him back in return. We've lost a great friend.'"
An NPR update near midday Sunday reported the reaction of of Katz's son to the accident.
"Drew Katz, Lewis Katz's son, said in a statement that his father's sudden death has brought 'an incomprehensible amount of grief.'
'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. He loved his native city of Camden and his adopted home of Philadelphia. He believed in strengthening education through his founding of charter schools, his support of the Boys & Girls Clubs and his generosity to his alma maters, Temple University and Dickinson Law School. But his greatest accomplishment by far was being the most amazing father to my sister and me, and grandparent to his four grandchildren.
'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.'"