Tragedy struck two news channels recently when two helicopters collided in Phoenix while covering a police chase. All four people on board the two aircrafts were killed including KTVK-TV’s photojournalist Jim Cox and pilot Scott Bowerback along with KNXV-TV’s photographer Rick Krolax and pilot Craig Smith. The crash is going to be investigating and question the safety of news helicopters in the air.

The helicopters were following a stolen white truck towing a trailer at the time of the crash which landed in a downtown park. Luckily, the wreckage did not hit anything on the ground and missed a nearby Veterans Affairs hospital and several high-rise buildings. The suspect in the police chase later abandoned the vehicle and barricaded himself in a house where he suffered several dog bites before being caught by SWAT officers and escorted to jail. It is likely that he will face charges for the helicopter crash and the deaths that resulted from it.

Though this was one of the more deadly incidents involving a news helicopter in recent history, they have occurred before. Before the 1980s, when helicopter safety was improved, there were over 300 reported helicopter crashes. In 2002, there were 205 crashes in the U.S. with 26 of them being fatal. The next year, there was a small increase to 212 civilian helicopter crashes with 37 fatalities.

In 1986, a traffic reporter for WNBC Radio in New York was killed after her chopper crashed into the Hudson River, critically injuring the pilot. The crash was later found to be caused by faulty repairs and the owner and manufacturer of the helicopter paid a $325,000 settlement to the reporter’s daughter. Earlier that year, Dornacker and another pilot crashed into the Hackensack River in New Jersey though they escaped unharmed. In 1998, a WNBC-TV helicopter crashed into the Passaic River in New Jersey.

The reporter and pilot were pulled to safety with minor injuries.

In May 2004, a news helicopter crashed on a Brooklyn rooftop after spinning out of control. The reporter and two pilots on board only suffered minor injuries. They were covering a shooting for WNBC-TV when the chopper hit the side of a four-story building and then fell onto the two-story building below. The cause of the crash was later determined to be due to a tail rotor failure.

For related articles visit http://www.wnbc.com/news/3269249/detail.html and

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/07/27/helicopter.crash/index.html.

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