New Jersey plane crash victims include man who went to space

November 12, 2021
This photo provided by Blue Origin shows Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket space passengers from left, Glen de Vries, Audrey Powers, William Shatner, and Chris Boshuizen pose inside the capsule on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.  The “Star Trek” actor and three fellow passengers hurtled to an altitude of 66.5 miles (107 kilometers) over the West Texas desert in the fully automated capsule, then safely parachuted back to Earth in a flight that lasted just over 10 minutes.  (Blue Origin via AP) ORG XMIT: NY750


NEWTON, N.J. – A New York City man who joined actor William Shatner on a trip to space last month and the owner and head instructor of Fischer Aviation, a family-run flight school, have been identified as the two people killed in a plane crash in Northern New Jersey  on Thursday, state police said.

Thomas P. Fischer, 54, of the Jefferson portion of Lake Hopatcong, a second generation flight instructor, was killed along with Glen M. de Vries, 49, of New York City, according to Trooper Brandi Slota, a New Jersey State police spokesperson.

de Vries began his private pilot training with Fischer in February 2016, according to the Fischer Aviation website.

The Carnegie Mellon trustee and founder of Medidata Solutions, a tech company, de Vries traveled into space on Oct. 13 aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft, fulfilling an apparent life-long dream.

A call to the flight school for comment on Thursday was immediately transferred to Fischer’s voicemail.

The Federal Aviation Administration alerted public safety authorities around 3 p.m. that the single-engine Cessna 172 went missing near Kemah Lake. Emergency crews found the wreckage around 4 p.m. 

Police said the aircraft was on its way to Sussex Airport from Essex County Airport in Caldwell.

Maria Njoku, a spokesperson for the FAA, said Friday a preliminary report on investigators’ findings of why the plane may have crashed will be released in roughly a week.

The aircraft was “destroyed” in the crash, which occurred “under unknown circumstances,” an initial report by the FAA states. 

The unusually quiet Kemah Lake community was an active scene Thursday evening, as local firefighters used UTVs to assist authorities into an illuminated tract of the heavily wooded Bear Swamp Wildlife Management Area off Fenner Road.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

Follow Lori Comstock on Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH


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