Friday, July 27, 2007

Tragedy in the sky

Four people died in Phoenix, Arizona today when two television news helicopters collided as they followed a car chase. The pilot and photographer aboard each helicopter died.

Part of me wonders why something like this didn't happen sooner. In large markets like Phoenix, every station has a helicopter, and whenever there's a car chase, up they go. Combine that with a police helicopter, and you've got perhaps four or five hovering close to each other, trying to pay attention to the chase, and to each other. It's a recipe for a tragedy, which sadly happened in this case.

For those of you who aren't squeamish, there is video of the last seconds of video of one of the helicopters.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The photographer in the ABC affiliate's helicopter worked at WNEP in the 1980s. Rick Krolak was a dedicated journalist and a nice guy.

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

16's pilot clearly doesn't worry often about other news helicopters, but there's another major difference between here and other markets.

Skycam's pilot is allowed to fly the thing and a reporter almost always handles the reporting. When the pilot is also the reporter, it's asking too much.

11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very disturbing. Many prayers to their families.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just talked with some friends at a station in Phoenix... as you can imagine... everyone shunned... crying in hallways, etc. All 5 TV copters were there at the same time... so it could have been even worse. It may not change the way news is covered from the sky... but it probably will cause routine police chase coverage to halt.

4:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is extremely disturbing. May God bless those people, and my prayers go out to their family and friends.

That very last piece of audio from the helicopter pilot (what sounds like a scream) is extremely haunting.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's been asked by Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute, "Why don't stations 'pool' chopper shots?"

It's a worthy question and more a suggestion that may have prevented Friday's tragedy.

Most stations pool video from courtrooms, though we're not lucky enough to have such a provision in Pa..

But consider this, in markets bigger than Phoenix, news helicopters have always respected one another's airspace. The history's there to prove it: no fatal accidents like this.

In NYC, a market where some stations have two choppers, a tragedy like this has never happened.

But here are some reasons against pooling:

-Some stations have gone out on a limb promoting ALL-HD chopper video, making their birds competitive stakes against all others, eclipsing other news stations.

-Surprisingly, in some big markets, there are stations without airships... DC, for instance, is not chopper friendly because of heavy restrictions on airspac. Still FOX5 has beaten the hell out of its SKY FOX in promotions, and why not?

-Pooling chopper video takes the edge out of competition... in the air.

-Worst of all, it sends the wrong message about the media... we can't do this as is, we need to make a better plan... there's a better way.

Back to Phoenix, preliminarily, it seems Ch. 3's chopper made a grave error and rose into Ch. 15's ship.

Before conclusions are drawn, the investigation should be put to bed and that will take months, according to the NTSB.

12:11 AM  

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