Phoenix, AZ Two News Helicopters Collide, Jul 2007
TWO NEWS HELICOPTERS CRASH IN PHOENIX, KILLING ALL 4 ON BOARD.
Phoenix, July 27 - Two television news helicopters crashed in midair Friday while covering a police chase near downtown, killing all four people aboard.
The helicopters exploded in the air, then crashed in a grassy area of Steele Indian School Park, with at least one helicopter exploding again as it hit the ground, witnesses said.
Two men in each helicopter died at the scene. No one on the ground was injured. The park is surrounded by a Veterans Administration hospital and high-rise office buildings and condominiums.
Three other news helicopters covering the police chase broadcast images of the burning wreckage.
"I saw the helicopters up there," said Frank Bartholic of Phoenix, who was sitting at a nearby bus stop.
"All of a sudden they got up over the park," said Mr. Bartholic, 47.
"They looked like they was going to go two different directions. They just came back around and went right into each other. I mean, whoa."
Several police officers who were involved in the chase ran to the wreckage, but were driven back by the flames and heat, witnesses said.
The police arrested the man involved in the chase, a suspect in a car-jacking, several hours later after a stand-off at a private residence.
Those killed were a pilot, CRAIG SMITH, and a photographer, RICK KROLAK, of KNXV, the ABC affiliate;
and a pilot, SCOTT BOWERBANK, and a photographer, JIM COX, of KTVK, an independent station.
Six helicopters were in the air at the time of the collision - five news helicopters and a police helicopter.
Accounts of the collision varied. Some witnesses said that the helicopters were hovering one above the other and that the lower one rose and hit the other one. Other witnesses said they hit head to head.
"All of us in this community have had a special loss today," Mayor Phil Gordon of Phoenix said at a news conference.
KNXV was broadcasting the chase live as the collision occurred. One
of the men aboard the helicopter, identified by The Associated Press as MR. SMITH, was describing the scene as the driver leading the chase abandoned a utility truck and jumped into a parked pickup truck. Then MR. SMITH said, "Oh, jeez!" The video went out, but sounds of a collision and swirling continued for a few seconds before the station cut away.
Witnesses said one helicopter fell nose first while the other spiraled down.
Both TV stations covered the crash, though their reporters, photographers and technicians on the scene said they had been instructed not to speak to other members of the news media about the collision.
Flags flew at half-staff and the lobby doors were locked at KTVK.
Omar Garcia of Phoenix was outside preparing to have lunch with his co-workers when they heard the first explosion.
Debris sprayed the area, said Mr. Garcia, 31. "I was so scared," he said. "I was trying to hide so it wouldn't reach us." Flames from the wreckage were initially about four-stories high, he said.
Chief Jack Harris of the Police Department told reporters, "This is just a terrible tragedy for both of our families - the media family as well as the Phoenix Police Department."
The authorities will consider charges against the truck driver in connection with the helicopter collision, Chief Harris said.
Officials said the suspect, whom they did not identify, rammed at least two police cars in the chase.
New York Times New York 2007-07-28