CHARLOTTE – Two employees of a Charlotte television station died in a helicopter crash that happened around noon Tuesday in south Charlotte.
The accident occurred near Interstate 77 at Nations Ford Road. MEDIC confirmed two people were pronounced dead at the scene.
Around 3 p.m. Tuesday, WBTV released a statement confirming that it was the station’s helicopter involved in the crash.
“The WBTV family is grieving a terrible loss. Our Sky3 news helicopter crashed mid-day Tuesday with two of our colleagues on board,” WBTV said in a statement. “Meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag lost their lives. We are working to comfort their families during this difficult time. We appreciate the outpouring of support for our staff and your continued prayers for their families.”
The FAA released a statement on Tuesday regarding the crash, saying, “A Robinson R44 helicopter crashed near I-77 South and Nations Ford Road in Charlotte, NC, at approximately 12:20 p.m. local time today. Two people were on board . The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide further updates. Neither agency is identifying individuals involved in plane crashes.”
CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said the pilot is a hero in his eyes.
“It appears the pilot operating the aircraft made some evasive maneuvers to avoid hitting traffic,” Jennings said.
Investigators remained on the scene into the night with some lanes of I-77 reopened.
‘That helicopter will crash’: Witnesses recount moments as investigators dig through evidence
Carolyn Russ was driving down Interstate 77 when she saw the crash unfold. She told Channel 9 the helicopter went down right next to her.
“It kind of went side to side … and I knew right away that the helicopter was going to crash,” Russ told Channel 9.
“It started diving and it turned around and started going north and it just crashed into the ground right next to the freeway right next to my car,” Russ added.
Witness Bridget-Ann Hampden said there was no smoke or fire and that the wreckage was “eerily quiet.”
She said it appeared the pilot diverted off the busy interstate.
“I really feel like he deliberately veered off the freeway because when he landed. He wasn’t more than five feet from the lane I was in,” Hampden said.
Hampden said the pilot was a hero.
“Honestly, he may have saved my life,” Hampden said. “Because I’m not sure what would have happened, you know? He was so close to me.”
Russ said her heart goes out to the families of Tayag and Myers and their WBTV family.
“If you have people you love, tell them you love them while you can,” Russ said.
Channel 9 learned the Charlotte Flight Standards District Office, along with the FAA, began investigating the crash site Tuesday. The local FAA is responsible for investigating other safety standards for this flight, including the flight history, pilot training and any audio recordings. The NTSB, on the other hand, will be a “recommending authority,” meaning they will come in and determine the probable cause of the crash.
The NTSB said a preliminary report could be out within four to six weeks, but the final report could take 12-24 months to be released.
An NTSB investigator was expected to arrive Tuesday night and work through Wednesday morning, an agency spokesman said.
The wreckage will be recovered and taken to an off-site location for further analysis.
The helicopter was a Robinson R-44. Channel 9 asked Bryan Burns, the president of the Air Charter Safety Foundation, about the plane itself.
“It’s a very airworthy, very solid training aircraft, typically for flight schools that people are trying to get their helicopter license in,” Burns said.
The NTSB’s final report will most likely include a probable cause for the crash along with any contributing factors.
The sky was clear and conditions were relatively calm when the accident happened.
ABC News aviation expert Jim Nance said it might not matter.
“Helicopters are very affected by wind, so just because it’s clear overhead doesn’t tell me the whole story,” Nance said.
He said helicopters are “incredibly safe.”
“But when something goes wrong, because it’s a helicopter, our attention is caught on what happened,” Nance said.
This is a development story. Check back with wsoctv.com for updates.
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