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3 Trump Casino Executives Killed

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three casino executives who worked for billionaire real estate developer Donald J. Trump were among five people killed Tuesday afternoon in a helicopter crash in New Jersey about 40 miles north of Atlantic City.

The three officials, including Trump’s top two gaming industry executives in Atlantic City, were returning from New York, where they had been promoting an upcoming boxing match between junior welterweights Hector Camacho and Vinny Pazienza.

The three casino executives killed were Stephen Hyde, Mark Grossinger Etess and Jonathan Benanav. The two remaining victims, who were not immediately identified, were believed to be the pilot and co-pilot of the helicopter, police said.

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Hyde ran Trump’s two operating casinos in Atlantic City, known as Trump Plaza and Trump Castle, while Etess was going to run the Taj Mahal, the $1-billion casino and hotel that Trump plans to open in Atlantic City next April. Benanav was senior vice president of Trump Plaza, where the Camacho-Pazienza fight is to be held Feb. 3.

“They were three fabulous young men in the prime of their lives,” Trump said in a statement issued from his New York office. “No better human beings ever existed. We’re deeply saddened by this devastating tragedy. Our hearts go out to their families.”

The leased helicopter crashed in a heavily wooded area on the median strip of the Garden State Parkway that runs down the New Jersey coastline. There were no survivors, police said.

Tom Murray, of East Providence, R.I., said he was camping nearby when he witnessed the helicopter crash to the ground. The “rotor stopped spinning and became disconnected from the helicopter and tumbled,” Murray told the Associated Press.

Devoted Family Men

Both Hyde, 43, and Etess, 38, were respected executives who were popular with their peers. “Nice is not a word that is often used in this business, but they were,” said David Gardener, vice president of the Casino Assn. of Atlantic City.

Hyde, a devout Mormon with a large family, was a veteran casino executive who had worked for gaming companies in both Las Vegas and Atlantic City, including Caesars World, Golden Nugget and the Sands.

Trained as a certified public accountant, he joined Caesars World after working for the company as their outside auditor, according to Michael Rumbolz, who works for Trump in Las Vegas.

Etess was a fourth-generation hotelier whose family founded the famous Grossinger’s resort in the Catskills, in the heart of the so-called Borscht Belt, that was so popular with generations of New York tourists.

He left the family business in 1983 for Atlantic City, where he went to work as the marketing director for the Golden Nugget casino. He joined the Trump Organization in 1986 and had since played a major role in bringing big-name fights to Atlantic City.

A slick dresser and easy talker, Etess was a combination of canny promoter and devoted father who talked about his two children more fervently than he did his job to run the Taj. “That’s what it’s all about,” he said in a recent interview with The Times, pointing to a picture of his children in his cramped office across the street from the Taj.

Though Trump owns a helicopter service that flies between Manhattan and Atlantic City, the craft that crashed was identified as an eight-seat Agusta 109A leased from Paramount Aviation in New Jersey.


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