William Shatner's Blue Origin Co-Passenger Dies After Return From Space

Glen de Vries, the New York businessman who joined William Shatner and two others on a flight into space on Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket last month, died in a plane crash in New Jersey on Thursday. Thomas Fischer, the owner and lead instructor of Fischer Aviation, also died in the crash. De Vries was 49 and Fischer, who began training de Vries in 2016, was 54.

A small, single-engine Cessna 172 crashed in a wooded area near Kemah Lake in Hampton Township, New Jersey at around 2:50 p.m., state police told the New Jersey Herald. The flight left Essex County Airport in Caldwell and was on its way to Sussex Airport. Police later confirmed the victims' identities early Friday, reports the Herald. The cause of the crash is unknown. Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Maria Njokju said a preliminary investigation will be released in about a week. The aircraft was "destroyed" in the crash, according to the FAA.

On Friday, Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, issued a statement on de Vries' death. "We are devastated to hear of the sudden passing of Glen de Vries. He brought so much life and energy to the entire Blue Origin team and to his fellow crewmates," the company said. "His passion for aviation, his charitable work, and his dedication to his craft will long be revered and admired."

De Vries was a molecular biologist who co-founded Medidata Solutions, a clinical research platform, reports CBS News. The company's software managed over 25,000 clinical trials. In 2019, the French software company Dassault Systèmes acquired Medidata for $5.8 billion. De Vries was a private pilot in his spare time. He started training with Fischer in February 2016, according to Fischer Aviation's website.

"Our thoughts and support go out to Glen's family," a Dassault Systèmes spokesperson said Friday. "Our deepest sympathy also goes out to our MEDIDATA team, which Glen co-founded. His tireless energy, empathy and pioneering spirit left their mark on everyone who knew him. We will truly miss Glen, but his dreams - which we share - live on: we will pursue progress in life sciences & healthcare as passionately as he did."

In October, de Vries spent over 10 minutes in space when he joined Blue Origin flight NS-18, alongside Shatner, Blue Origin executive Audrey Powers, and Australian entrepreneur Chris Boshuizen. Shatner, 90, became the oldest person to fly into space. During a CBS Pittsburgh interview after the flight, de Vries said he wanted to help others get interested in spaceflight. "I thought that would be important to me before we went up, and having done it makes me feel twice as much conviction," he said at the time. "Maybe a thousand times more conviction. That is something we need to make accessible, in an equitable way, to as many people on the planet as possible."