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Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz and six others were killed in the fiery crash of a small business jet shortly after takeoff from an airfield outside Boston on Saturday night.

Katz, 72, was killed four days after he and an associate and close friend, H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, put together an $88-million deal to gain control of the media company that owns the Inquirer with an eye toward restoring the paper's stature.

The Gulfstream IV crashed at 9:40 p.m. as it was departing Hanscom Field, about 20 miles northwest of Boston, heading for Atlantic City International Airport, said Matthew Brelis, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the field.

No one survived the crash, Brelis said. Witnesses said they heard an explosion and saw a fireball spew 60 feet into the air.

Also on board the jet was Anne Leeds, 74, the wife of James Leeds Sr., who serves on the board of commissioners in Longport, a resort town in southern New Jersey.

Katz and Anne Leeds had traveled to Massachusetts to attend an education event at the Concord home of author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

"We'll all deeply mourn the loss of my true friend (Katz) and fellow investor in ownership of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News and Philly.com," Lenfast told the Inquirer. He said that Katz's son, Drew, would replace his father on the new company's board of directors.

While the deal struck Tuesday will be delayed, it will proceed, Lenfast said.

Katz made a fortune in a massive parking empire, as well as banking, billboard and real estate, according to a profile in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Camden, N.J., native, who bought and sold sports teams, was also involved in philanthropy and politics. He was close friend and supporter of former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell.

Rendell said Sunday he had been invited by Katz to accompany him on the trip to Massachusetts, but had another commitment.

Katz owned the New Jersey Nets at a time when they reached the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003 for the first time in team history. "All of us in the NBA were extremely saddened to learn of (his) tragic, sudden death," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Sunday. "He was a visionary businessman who touched the lives of so many with his tireless pursuit of innovation and enterprise."

Katz was a graduate of Temple University and had donated $15 million to the school, which has a building named in his honor

In the business deal that led to control of the Inquirer last week, Katz and Lenfest said they were committed to in-depth journalism and returning the paper to its former glory, said the newspaper's editor Bill Marimow. The paper's circulation and revenue have fallen for years.

In announcing the purchase last week, Katz said their endeavor is "going to be a lot of hard work. We're not kidding ourselves. It's going to be an enormous undertaking. Hopefully, (theInquirer) will get fatter."

The crash remains under investigation.

One witness, Jeff Patterson, told the Boston Globe he heard the explosion and saw the fireball.

"I thought at the time that someone was trying to break into my house," said Patterson's son, 14-year-old Jared Patterson. "I thought someone was like banging on the door trying to get in."

The airfield, which serves the public, was closed after the crash. Brelis said responders were still on the scene early Sunday morning.

An aviation expert who spoke to New England Cable News said various explanations for the explosion were possible.

"The engine could implode, if you will," said Steve Cunningham of Nashua Flight Simulator. "A turbine wheel could separate, there could be a fire in the combustion chamber. Or a fuel leak could also create a fire of that nature."

Hanscom Field was used by the Army Air Corps and military operations dominated until it became both a military and civilian facility in the 1950s. Massport currently manages it as a regional airport serving mostly corporate aviation, private pilots, commuter air services, and some light cargo.

Contributing: Associated Press

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