Croatian jet crash kills 13 US executives

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The Independent Online
As Washington grieved the loss of Ron Brown, the US Commerce Secretary, in Wednesday's crash of a US airforce jet in Croatia, corporate America was similarly in shock yesterday over the loss on board of 13 senior executives from companies that included AT&T and the US unit of ABB Asea Brown Boveri.

The men, mostly in their fifties and from the highest echelons of their companies, were accompanying Mr Brown on a meticulously planned trade mission to the Balkans aimed at giving American companies a head start on contracts to assist in the rebuilding of the region's ravaged infrastructure.

The tragedy was expected to spur many companies to reconsider their own safety guidelines for allowing executives to fly around the world. Many US corporations already forbid more than a small number of their managers to fly at the same time on a single plane.

The crash stands out because it killed executives from so many different companies. There have been aviation accidents in recent years that have hit individual companies, such as the deaths of Frank Wells, of Walt Disney in 1994, and of three executives working for Donald Trump in 1989.

As news of the disaster reached the US on Wednesday, there was confusion for a while as to who exactly had been among the passengers. There were at least two cases of executives who were meant to take the flight but did not.

The youngest of those from the business world who perished was Paul Cushman, 35, who was appointed two years ago as the chief executive of the international division of Riggs Bank, based in Washington DC.

The AT&T executive was named as Walter Murphy, 52, who was vice president of global sales for the company's submarine division. Mr Murphy was one of AT&T's most experienced employees in rebuilding telephone communications systems almost from scratch.

Robert Donovan, 54, was president and chief executive of the Connecticut- based US subsidiary of ABB of Sweden, which is expected to be involved in building new power-generating plans in Bosnia and Croatia. Mr Donovan was also a veteran of the Vietnam war.

Leonard Pieroni, 57, was president and chief executive of the Parsons Corporation, one of America's largest engineering design companies, based in Pasadena, California. Parsons was heavily involved in Kuwait after the Gulf War.

Also on board was Donald Terner, 56, president of the Bridge Housing Corporation, well-known in America for its work in building low-cost housing. Paying tribute to Mr Terner, Senator Dianne Feinstein said he was a "legend in San Francisco and California for his innovations in the development of affordable housing".

Among others who lost their lives was Robert Whittaker, 48, chairman of the Foster Wheeler Corporation, which makes energy equipment; Claudio Elia, 53, chairman of Water Technologies Corporation; and John Scoville, 64, chairman of the Harza Engineering Company.

There were also several senior members from the Commerce Department, including an assistant secretary, Charles Meissner, and a journalist covering the mission. He was Nathaniel Nash, of the New York Times.