Billionaire on Jeff Bezos's space flight dies aged 49 in plane crash

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A man who travelled to space in Jeff Bezos's spacecraft has been killed alongside another person when the small plane they were in crashed in a wooded area of northern New Jersey, US, according to state police.

Glen de Vries, a 49-year-old businessman from New York City, and 54-year-old Thomas Fischer, from Hopatcong, were aboard the single-engine Cessna 172 that went down on Thursday (local time).

Mr de Vries was an instrument-rated private pilot and Mr Fischer owned a flight school. Authorities have not said who was piloting the small plane.

The plane had left Essex County Airport in Caldwell, on the edge of the New York City area, and was headed to Sussex Airport, in rural northwestern New Jersey, when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) alerted public safety agencies to look for the missing plane about 3pm.

Emergency crews found the wreckage in Hampton Township about an hour later, the FAA said.

Glen de Vries (left) pictured on the Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket space with actor William Shatner (second from the right) last month.
Glen de Vries (left) was onboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket space with actor William Shatner (second from the right) last month. Source: AP

Mr de Vries travelled on October 13 aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft, spending more than 10 minutes in space after launching along with William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the long-running TV series Star Trek, and others aboard a ship built by Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin company.

"It's going to take me a while to be able to describe it. It was incredible," Mr de Vries said as he got his Blue Origin 'astronaut wings' pinned onto his blue flight suit by Mr Bezos.

Blue Origin pays tribute to Glen de Vries

"We are devastated to hear of the sudden passing of Glen de Vries," Blue Origin tweeted on 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."

Mr De Vries co-founded Medidata Solutions, a software company specialising in clinical research, and was the vice chair of life sciences and health care at Dassault Systemes.

It was acquired by Medidata for US$5.8 billion (AU$7.9 billion) in 2019, according to The Times.

He had taken part in an auction for a seat on the first Blue Origin flight and bought a seat on the second trip.

Mr Fischer owned the flight school, Fischer Aviation, and was its chief instructor, according to the company's website.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

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