Military helicopter accident takes Georgia station off air

This morning (June 1, 2006), A U.S. Army Chinook helicopter clipped the NTSC transmission tower used by WFXL-TV in Albany, GA, and crashed this morning, killing four of the five people onboard.

According to station manager Deborah Owens, it appears the helicopter clipped a guy wire and may also have struck and damaged the tower at about 950ft from the ground. Following the accident, the U.S. military cordoned off the area, making it difficult for the station to assess the damage fully, she said.

As of 2 p.m., the station remained off air due to the accident although the station continues to serve about 60 percent of its audience with cable and satellite coverage.

The tower, located in Doerun, GA, a rural section of the state about 30 miles southeast of Albany, “is not stable,” said Owens. WFXL owns the structure, and a tower crew is expected on site by 3 p.m. EDT to install a temporary tower guy wire and do a full inspection, she said.

The crash, which reportedly occurred at about 8 a.m., involved an MH-47 Chinook on its way from Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah to Fort Rucker, AL, according to media reports.

The fuselage of the helicopter came to rest about 150yds from the transmitter building, said Owens. The station’s transmitter building did not appear to have been struck although given the instability of the tower and the presence of the military cordon, a building inspection had not been conducted, she said.