By BEN FINLEY
A helicopter pilot and a meteorologist who worked for a North Carolina television station died Tuesday when a news helicopter crashed along an interstate highway in the Charlotte area, according to authorities and the station.
Meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag were identified as the people killed in the crash in a statement by WBTV. The crash snarled traffic along Interstate 77 in the Charlotte area after its southbound lanes were closed by investigators, but no vehicles on the ground were involved.
Two people were on board the Robinson R44 helicopter, which crashed around 12:20 p.m. local time, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration. The Mecklenburg County EMS Agency said the two were pronounced dead at the scene.
The station paid tribute to Myers and Tayag both in a written statement and on the air. WBTV broadcasters who had been reporting on the crash identified their colleagues through cracked voices on air about three hours following the deadly crash.
“We are working to comfort their families in this difficult time. We appreciate the outpouring of support for our staff and your continued prayers for their families,” the station said in a statement.
Police said that no vehicles on the ground were involved in the crash. Preliminary witness accounts indicate that the pilot made some “diversionary” maneuvers and “tried to avoid injuring anyone else” and “probably saved some lives,” Johnny Jennings, chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, told reporters.
“And if that is truly the case, then that pilot is a hero in my eyes to make sure that the safety and security of those that were driving was not in jeopardy,” Jennings said.
The chief added: “We’re looking at going into the holiday season where we’re supposed to be spending time with our loved ones. And tragically, there are two people involved in this crash that will not be going home and will not be spending the holidays with their family.”
The National Transportation Safety Board will lead an investigation into the crash along with the FAA.