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Woman who served under Clinton, Obama dead in airplane turbulence accident

By Sarah May on
 March 7, 2023

The private jet passenger who was killed last week over New England has now been identified as high-profile lawyer Dana Hyde, whose career included time spent in the administrations of former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as NBC News reports.

Hyde, 55, also served on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States – also known as the 9/11 Commission – and was headed to the Washington, D.C. area along with her husband and son – neither of whom were injured – on the day she died.

Prominent lawyer dies

According to the Associated Press, the Bombardier business jet in which Hyde was flying was hit with severe turbulence after its departure from Keene, New Hampshire, which forced it to divert to Connecticut's Bradley International Airport.

The Daily Mail noted that not long after the aircraft left New Hampshire, Connecticut State Troopers received a call for medical assistance involving a jet owned by Conexon, an Internet service provider of which Hyde's husband is a partner.

Hyde was taken from the plane and transported to Saint Francis Medical Center in Hartford, where she was ultimately pronounced dead.

The chief medical examiner's office determined that Hyde's death was caused by blunt-force injuries, according to NPR.

Rare fatality

As the AP explained, turbulence, which is defined as unstable air in the atmosphere, is not an uncommon occurrence on flights, despite strides in aircraft safety in recent years, but even so, it is extremely rare for the phenomenon to result in death.

Robert Sumwalt, former chair at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and executive director at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Center for Aviation and Aerospace Safety stated, “I can't remember the last fatality due to turbulence,”

Citing statistics published by the NTSB, turbulence was to blame for over a third of all accidents on larger commercial flights between the period of 2009 to 2018, but deaths stemming from those events were by far the exception, not the rule.

Last week, a Lufthansa Airbus was hit with serious turbulence en route to Germany from Texas, and while seven individuals required hospitalization as a result, none perished, as the AP noted.

Investigation underway

With many unanswered questions remaining about what led to Hyde's death, NTSB investigators are in the process of conducting a comprehensive investigation, as NBC News reported.

Officials were said to be interviewing the crew members from the ill-fated flight as well as the two passengers who survived in order to determine whether seatbelts were in use when the turbulence hit.

Data and voice recorders from the aircraft have also been sent to NTSB headquarters for additional evidence gathering, and the agency has already suggested that it is examining whether a “trim issue” may have contributed to the tragic outcome – a reference to the adjustments customarily made to the control surfaces of an aircraft to ensure in-flight stability, as the AP noted.

Notably, as NBC News added, just last year, pilots received an instruction from the Federal Aviation Administration to take enhanced pre-flight steps before lifting off in Bombardier planes of the same model which carried Hyde, citing trim-related concerns.

Prolific career cut short

Hyde's untimely death brings to a premature end a highly successful legal and public service career that included time spent on the aforementioned 9/11 Commission, inside the Justice Department, State Department, and the White House Office of Management and Budget, as NPR noted.

She also worked in private legal practice at WilmerHale in London as well as Zuckerman Spaeder in Washington, D.C., ultimately moving into a role as a Partner at venture capital firm JVP, according to a biography on the Columbia [University] World Projects website.

NBC News added that Hyde also served as co-chair of the Partnership for an Inclusive Economy at the Aspen Institute in recent years, working in a part-time consulting role.

Aspen Institute Jon Purves said of Hyde, “During her time with us, Dana was a brilliant and generous colleague who worked closely with programs across the organization to build partnerships and enhance our collective work,” and given the long list of prestigious positions she attained over the years, those sentiments are likely shared by many who join her family in mourning her loss.