For co-pilot of fatal flight, sun was always shining

Bauke Mike de Vries, 45, with his 18-year-old daughter, Morgan, and wife, Shelly, of Marlton, N.J.
Bauke Mike de Vries, 45, with his 18-year-old daughter, Morgan, and wife, Shelly, of Marlton, N.J.
Posted: June 04, 2014

ON SATURDAY night, Shelly de Vries got a call from her husband, who told her he'd be home later than expected.

"He told me to go to bed, that he'd see me in the morning and that we'd have coffee," de Vries said last night from her home in Marlton, Burlington County.

Hours later, she was awakened by police officers who delivered news that she has yet to fully process: Her husband, Bauke, had died in a fiery plane crash at a private airfield outside Boston that also claimed the lives of six others, including Daily News co-owner Lewis Katz.

"He was just a wonderful man," Shelly de Vries said of her husband, whom she called Mike. "He brightened the world. . . . He would always say, 'On a rainy day, the sun is still shining; you just have to look above the clouds.' "

Bauke de Vries, 45, had worked as a pilot for Katz for a decade, after flying commercial jets for many years, his wife said.

He worked alongside, and was good friends with, James McDowell, 51, the lead pilot of Saturday's doomed flight. A family member of McDowell's declined to comment last night when reached at his home in Georgetown, Del.

"It was Mike's dream to fly, ever since he was a kid," de Vries said. "He never had a fear of getting in the air; he loved it."

He kept that love even after surviving a crash in the early '90s at South Jersey Regional Airport in Medford, one that claimed the life of its pilot.

"He just loved to be home and care for his family, his dogs and his garden," de Vries said. The couple lived with a Weimaraner, a yellow Lab and an Irish setter, she said. A daughter also lives at home.

Last night, authorities confirmed that the National Transportation Safety Board had recovered the plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder from its twisted wreckage, which had come to rest in a water-filled gully at the end of the runway on which it had skidded.

The devices are being analyzed at the NTSB's lab in Washington, D.C., spokesman Peter Knudson said last night. An announcement about their contents is expected today.

Yesterday, authorities had few new details of the investigation into the crash that killed de Vries, McDowell and Katz, as well as flight crew member Teresa Benhoff, 48, of Easton, Md.; Katz's neighbor Anne Leeds; Marcella Dalsey, the director of Katz's son's foundation; and Susan K. Asbell, the wife of former Camden County prosecutor Sam Asbell.

Luke Schiada, the NTSB investigator leading the probe, said that personnel had recovered the Gulfstream IV's maintenance records and the training records for its crew, and would be reviewing the information in the coming days.

Schiada said it was too early in the investigation to determine the cause of the crash.

Meanwhile, Steve Cunningham, a Philly-born commercial pilot with the Nashua Flight Simulator at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, described the Gulfstream IV as a "reliable plane with a terrific safety record."

Cunningham told the Daily News that the twin-engine aircraft has a sterling history since coming into use in the '80s, and that its pilots require regular, intensive training.

"That suggests to me that something happened in that cockpit . . . but we won't know until we see data from the recorders," Cunningham said.

"Until that's studied, this is all really conjecture."

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