Shatner space partner dies in plane crash

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A man who travelled to space with Star Trek actor William Shatner last month has been killed along with another person when the small plane they were in crashed in a wooded area of northern New Jersey, according to state police.

Glen de Vries, 49, of New York City, and 54-year-old Thomas Fischer of Hopatcong, were aboard the single-engine Cessna 172 that went down on Thursday.

De Vries was an instrument-rated private pilot, and 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 alerted public safety agencies to look for the missing plane around 3pm local time.

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

De Vries travelled on October 13 aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft, spending more than 10 minutes in space after launching along with 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," de Vries said as he got his Blue Origin 'astronaut wings' pinned onto his blue flight suit by Bezos.

"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."

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, which acquired Medidata in 2019.

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

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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