A mid-air collision between two TV news helicopters in Phoenix left four men dead Friday. Crews from several stations were covering a police chase when the helicopters of Belo's KTVK-TV (Ch. 3, Ind.) and Scripps' KNXV-TV (Ch. 15, ABC) collided in the air and both fell in flames into a city park. The crash killed KTVK pilot-reporter Scott Bowerbank and photographer Jim Cox and KNXV pilot-reporter Craig Smith and photographer Rick Krolack. No one on the ground was injured. It is believed to be the first time that two TV news aircraft have collided in the US while covering a story. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the cause of the crash.
"It appears as though the Channel 3 helicopter was stationary and the Channel 15 helicopter either came up from under the Channel 3 helicopter or was at the same level. We can't tell because it's eyewitness testimony. One appeared to be relatively stationary, and one was moving and that's how the collision took place," said NTSB spokesman Steve Chealander in a story posted by KTVK. NTSB has been seeking video and photos from the media and general public, along with eyewitness accounts, to determine how and why the helicopters collided.
The man who was the subject of the police chase was arrested after the crash and charged with theft, assault and resisting arrest. He is being held on one million bucks bond and may face additional charges related to the helicopter crash.
Both stations have invited viewers to post condolences on their websites. A joint memorial service for Bowerback and Cox is planned for tomorrow, one for Smith on Thursday and one for Krolak on Saturday.
"NAB and the entire broadcast family mourn the loss of the journalists killed in the tragic Phoenix helicopter collision. Broadcasters take seriously our role as first informers in providing viewers and listeners with breaking news and emergency information. This incident serves as a sobering reminder that the noble profession of journalism can often carry special risks," said NAB President David Rehr in a statement.