Entrepreneur who went to space with William Shatner dies in plane crash

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


A man who traveled to space with actor William Shatner aboard a Blue Origin rocket ship last month was killed in a small plane crash Thursday.

According to Reuters, Glen M. de Vries, 49, of New York City and another passenger were both killed when their single-engine Cessna 172 went down in a wooded area of a Lake Kemah, New Jersey state park around 4 p.m. No additional information has been released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which is investigating the crash.

A medical research software magnate, de Vries was one of four passengers, including Shatner, selected to take part in the second space tourism flight of Blue Origin, a private aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company founded by billionaire businessman Jeff Bezos. De Vries, who secured a seat aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft with a successful auction bid, described the 10-minute journey to the edge of space as “incredible.” 

Bezos tweeted on Friday that he was “heartbroken” upon learning of the fatal crash. “Such a tragic loss. Warm and full of life, Glen made us laugh and lit up the room. He was a visionary, and an innovator – a true leader.” The Amazon executive chairman also expressed condolences to Glen’s partner, Leah, adding, “The world lost you too soon, Glen.”

Thomas P. Fischer, 54, of Hopatcong, who also died in the plane crash, owned Fischer Aviation flight school and was its chief instructor, according to the company’s website. De Vries was an instrument-rated private pilot. It is not clear which man was piloting the plane when it crashed.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the plane had departed from Essex County Airport in Caldwell and was heading to Sussex Airport in rural northwestern New Jersey. At around 3 p.m., the FAA asked public safety agencies to launch a search for the Cessna when its whereabouts became unknown. Wreckage from the plane was discovered by emergency crews in Hampton Township approximately one hour later. 

“We are devastated to hear of the sudden passing of Glen de Vries,” Blue Origin tweeted Friday. “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 co-founded Medidata Solutions, a clinical research software company, and was vice chair of life sciences and health care at Dassault Systemes. He also served on the board of Carnegie Mellon University.