08.03.2007 10:06 AM
Four die in Phoenix news copter crash

Four TV news personnel are dead after two news helicopters collided in midair over central Phoenix and crashed to the ground July 27.

The helicopters were covering the police pursuit of a carjacked truck for KTVK, the Belo-owned station in the city, and KNXV, the E.W. Scripps Television station in town. Dead are KTVK helicopter pilot Scott Bowerbank, station photographer Jim Cox, KNXV reporter and pilot Craig Smith, and KNXV photographer Rick Krolak.

The helicopters crashed in a Phoenix park. No one on the ground was injured.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation. Radio communications indicated, however, that the pilots were momentarily confused about each other's exact location in the moments before the collision.

A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) told the "Arizona Republic" that the wreckage will be laid out at another location for examination. Witnesses told investigators that neither helicopter appeared to be in distress before they collided. A full report is due within nine months.

NTSB board member Steven Chealander told the Arizona newspaper that according to witnesses, the Channel 3 helicopter was hovering in a set location and the Channel 15 helicopter moved into it.

Reports said two large pieces of Channel 3's helicopter, which landed 100ft away from the rest of the burned wreckage, showed that it fell apart before landing in an open park. If the collision had occurred a short distance south, west or east of where it did, the newspaper said the helicopters could have landed on congested streets, residential neighborhoods or a hospital.

In a written statement, KTVK president and general manager Mark Higgins said, “words fail to express the sadness” caused by the deaths of the four.

Commenting on the accident, Radio-Television News Director Association (RTNDA) president Barbara Cochran noted, “It is important to recognize the unique public service provided by the brave men and women who pilot and report from news helicopters… The four who lost their lives on July 27 exemplified that kind of courage and public service.”

In Grand Prairie, TX, a helicopter carrying a pilot and two traffic reporters crashed last week after losing power, leaving the passengers bruised but alive.

Chip Waggoner, who was reporting for Dallas Fox affiliate KDFW-TV, told his station that the aircraft lost power at about 7 a.m., and that pilot Curtis Crump was able to make a hard emergency landing, with the aircraft skidding and tipping over before coming to a stop near a lake dam.

In an Associated Press report, Waggoner said he and Crump were unhurt, and radio traffic reporter Julie DeHarty was sore but able to walk. DeHarty is the traffic reporter for Dallas radio stations KRLD-AM and KVIL-FM.

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