IT contractor mourns loss of three employees

As workers today mourned the weekend death of its founder and two other employees, High Performance Technologies Inc. said the company "will survive" the worst tragedy in its decade in business.

Donald Fitzpatrick, president and chief executive officer of the Reston, Va., government IT contractor, was killed March 1 when the plane he was in crashed in Leesburg, Va., as it was apparently preparing to land at a Leesburg airport. Also killed were the company's counsel, Ford Byrd, and pilot Greg Jackson.

Today was to have been a day of celebration: After years in Arlington, Va., HPTI moved into new headquarters offices in Reston. Most of the company's 200 employees are in Washington area offices. The company has satellite offices in New Jersey, Colorado, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

Investigators said the plane was returning to Leesburg from Florida when it crashed in foggy weather. It is not clear whether the men were traveling on business, and a company spokesman declined comment.

"Over time, the pain will lessen, but our memories of these three men will never dim," said a message posted on the company's Web site today. "Those memories will only increase our determination to make HPTI the envy of all in the technology industry. Don would want that."

The company reported annual revenue of about $34 million, the spokesman said. Specialty areas included battlefield, scientific and technical computing. Clients include the Justice Department, where the company was an IT consultant in automated business intelligence services. HPTI did work on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Forecast Systems Lab Linux cluster and work on the Pentagon's High Performance Computing Modernization program.

Fitzpatrick, 58, started the Northern Virginia company after working as a group vice president for information technology at PRC and as a partner with Ernst and Young, according to a company biography.

"The success of High Performance Technologies over the past 10 years is due in large measure to his clear vision and strategic genius," the company's statement said. "He kept us focused on those factors most important to our success: our employees, customers and technological excellence. By example, Don drove this firm to be the best that it could be. We grieve his loss and feel a sadness words can't express, but we will not let this break our spirit."
Executives were unavailable to discuss succession plans.

Byrd was consulting corporation counsel, and Jackson had joined the company four months ago.

Federal authorities are investigating the crash.

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