Five Kelso executives survive plane crash

In a freak aviation accident involving a private jet, a private equity firm and a clothing store, five employees of the New York buyout shop survived a plane crash yesterday at a New Jersey airport.

Five employees of the New York-based private equity firm Kelso & Co. were passengers aboard a Chicago-bound private plane that crashed upon takeoff from Teterboro airport in New Jersey yesterday, according to the New York Times.

Although twenty people were injured in the accident, including bystanders and firefighters, there were no fatalities.

Kelso & Co. declined to release the names of its employees who were on board the plane, but a report in the Belfast Telegraph stated that Rory Murphy, 28, a native of Ireland and a Kelso investment professional, was one of the passengers.

The incident, which occurred yesterday morning, began when the chartered jet slid off the runway during takeoff and crossed a six-lane highway before crashing into the headquarters of clothing retailer Strawberry’s. Along the way, the plane tore through a metal fence, struck several cars – some of which burst into flames – and punched a gaping hole into the side of the office building where it came to rest.

According to eyewitness accounts, the plane crash caused a panic among employees at the Strawberry’s offices, as alarms rang and frightened workers fled the scene of the accident. Following the crash, jet fuel was visibly leaking from the plane’s fuselage, in close proximity to the flames emanating from the burning cars.

There were six other passengers aboard the plane including three crew members and three executives from other financial companies. A report in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, citing a source, said that the executives represented Citigroup, Bear Stearns, Deloitte and Deutsche Bank.

The plane's co-pilot suffered a broken leg and one of the passengers was admitted to the hospital with abdominal pain. The most critical injury was suffered by an unnamed man, a passenger in one of the cars that was hit by the plane as it crossed the Route 46 highway.

According to a spokeswoman for the National Transportation Safety Board, the engine’s rear thrusters had been used to try and stop the plane, but it was unclear if the brakes had been deployed. The plane’s cockpit voice recorder revealed that the pilots had made the decision to discontinue the takeoff. The NTSB is continuing to investigate.

Teterboro Airport, one of the busiest in the nation for private-plane flights, is used frequently by private equity and other financial executives due to its proximity to New York City.

According to the firm’s website, Kelso & Co. employees include nine principals, four transaction professionals and seven legal and accounting staff members. In addition to the firm’s principals, Kelso’s board is comprised of six directors including Kelso’s founder Joseph Schuchert, Jr.

Kelso & Co. has invested six funds with total capital exceeding $2.8 billion. The firm is currently investing its seventh fund, Kelso Investment Associates VII, which closed on $2.1 billion in 2003.