4 Dead in Phoenix Chopper Collision

Discussion in 'OFF-Topic / Misc.' started by Njaco, Jul 27, 2007.

  1. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/sns-ap-helicopters-collide,1,7303756.story

    By JACQUES BILLEAUD | Associated Press Writer
    7:16 PM CDT, July 27, 2007
    PHOENIX - Two news helicopters covering a police chase on live television collided and crashed to the ground Friday, killing all four people on board in a plunge that viewers saw as a jumble of spinning, broken images.

    Both helicopters went down in a park in central Phoenix and caught fire. No one on the ground was hurt.
    Television station KNXV reported that it operated one of the choppers. The other was from KTVK. A pilot and photographer aboard each chopper were killed.

    KNXV reporter Craig Smith, who was among the dead, was reporting live as police chased a man driving a construction truck who had fled a traffic stop. The man was driving erratically, hitting several cars and driving on the sidewalk at times.

    Police had blown the truck's tires, and the man eventually parked it, then carjacked another vehicle nearby.

    Just before the picture broke up, Smith said, "Oh geez!"

    The station then switched to the studio and briefly showed regular programming, a soap opera, before announcing that the helicopter had crashed.
    The man fleeing from police was later taken into custody by a SWAT team after barricading himself inside a house, police said. Police Chief Jack Harris suggested he could be charged in connection with the collision.

    "I believe you will want to talk to investigators, but I think he will be held responsible for any of the deaths from this tragedy," Harris told reporters at the scene. He did not elaborate.

    National Transportation Safety Board investigators were on the scene Friday and more were on their way from out of state, Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Joel Tranter said.

    The two choppers came down on the grass lawn in front of a boarded-up church at the park. Firefighters swarmed to the area as thick black smoke rose from the scene.

    Rick Gotchie, an air conditioning contractor, was working nearby when he noticed the helicopters overhead. He said they began circling closer as he continued watching, and one appeared to get too close to the other.

    "I kept saying 'Go lower, go lower,' but he didn't," Gotchie said. "It was like a vacuum. They just got sucked into each other, and they both exploded and pieces were flying everywhere."

    He said he ran to the crash site, but "no one got out."

    Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the pilots of the five news helicopters and one police chopper over the chase were not talking to air traffic controllers at the time, which is normal.

    "Typically air traffic controllers clear helicopters into an area where they can cover a chase like this," Gregor said. "Once they are in the area, the pilots themselves are responsible for keeping themselves separated from other aircraft."

    Pilots generally use a dedicated radio frequency to talk to each other and maintain their positions, Gregor said.

    "There is a high degree of coordination," Gregor said. "To fly for a TV station you have to have a commercial rating, which means more (flight hours), more training."

    Gregor said the FAA has not had major safety problems with news chopper operations. "This hasn't been a problem; there hasn't been a trend or a series of issues involving TV helicopters," he said.

    Keith McCutchen, a past president of the National Broadcast Pilots Association and a news pilot for 11 years in Indianapolis, said pilot awareness is vital while on the scene of a story because of the many distractions that could spell trouble.

    "You are watching the scene. You have to bring your attention inside to look at the monitors to see what the audience is seeing so you can converse. But you're also having to direct your attention to the other aircraft flying around you.

    "You have to have your head on a swivel in those kinds of situations," he said.

    In Indianapolis, when news choppers descend on a story, they pick different altitudes and radio their positions to other pilots.

    "I may be live on the air and one of the other guys may say, `Hey, I'm coming up on your left side,'" McCutchen said. "I'll break away from what I'm doing on the air and say, `Roger,' and then go back to talking."

    Killed on board the KTVK chopper were pilot Scott Bowerbank and photographer Jim Cox. Smith and photographer Rick Krolak were aboard the KNXV aircraft, the stations reported.

    Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association in Washington, said the group does not track fatalities among helicopter news pilots, but she could not recall another example of two news choppers colliding while covering a story.

    "These pilots, they are very professional. They combine the skills of pilots and skills as journalists," she said.


    Associated Press writers Chris Kahn, Pauline Arrillaga and Terry Tang contributed to this report.


    Copyright © 2007, The Associated Press

    TV viewers did not actually witness the accident because cameras aboard both aircraft were pointed at the ground. But they saw video from one of the helicopters break up and begin to spin before the station abruptly switched to the studio.
     
  2. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    My wife and I just purchased a vehicle from Phoenix, a friend of our who lives there set the deal up and he will be driving the car to Colorado next week. He was on his way back to his home from picking up the vehicle when the chase went right by him. He didn't see the collision but saw the smoke from the fire!
     
  3. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    Geez, what a day... I saw a news piece where another chopper pilto nearby saw it happen. He said he could hear their screams over the radio as they fell.
     
  4. mkloby

    mkloby Active Member

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    Terrible story. Seems like collision avoidance and SA were nowhere on their minds flying in such a confined area, both with the same task at hand, and not knowing where each other were.
     
  5. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Absolutely terrible. This is why in the Army we have Crew Chiefs on our helicopters as an extra set of eyes. And by using crew coordination we lower the risk of something like this happening.
     
  6. mkloby

    mkloby Active Member

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    Not much of a crew with just a pilot and a photographer. The tape they played had one of the pilots getting concerned about the other helo flying so closely to them - I think that was shortly before the mishap.
     
  7. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    I have seen a number of near misses between news helos here and figured it was only a matter of time before something like this happens. Too many of these press folks try to "get the story" at all costs. Well, this is a good example of how high that cost can be. All over a stupid car chase.

    You would think that they should have some sort of minimum separation regulation for media helicopters covering stories. They have minimum altitudes already.
     
  8. mkloby

    mkloby Active Member

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    I think they said there were 5 helos covering the incident.
     
  9. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    Does anyone need five helicopters to cover a police chase? I know they are all different stations, but really, I don't think anyone wants to flip thriough every local station to see the same thing...I am a little tired of the media.
     
  10. mkloby

    mkloby Active Member

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    Jeez - who isn't! :D
     
  11. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Yeah I understand that but there is no reason why they cant have more people on board. The aircraft were probably Bell 206's or some kind of Eurocopter and they have more than 2 seats.
     
  12. mkloby

    mkloby Active Member

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    Oh I agree with you completely. Heck - who wouldn't be willing to go along for a free helo ride, even if they just served as an observer.
     
  13. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    I think one was a A star in looking at what was left of the tail rotor...
     
  14. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    There was (and maybe still is) a helicopter pilot for one of the LA TV stations that was (is) a real @ss. To be honest with you when I heard about this I thought it might of been him. When I was in CAP he was always getting in our way during searches.
     
  15. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    People who get int he way of searches should be brought up on charges and thrown in jail.
     
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