A helicopter pilot and a meteorologist working for a North Carolina television station died Tuesday when a news helicopter crashed on a Charlotte-area freeway. Police commended the pilot for heroically dodging the road in his final moments.
Meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag were identified as those killed in the crash in a statement by WBTV – and by colleagues who covered the crash live from the station’s studio.
Presenters Jamie Boll and Molly Grantham fought back tears and mourned the loss of their colleagues while providing updates during a broadcast that lasted for hours. They included witness reports that Tayag prevented the helicopter from crashing onto Interstate-77 during a busy vacation week.
“Jamie and I are learning here as our newsroom is learning and trying to figure it out while deeply grieving…” Grantham said on the show. “As we announce the news, all of us — all — in our WBTV family are mourning the loss of Chip and Jason because we love them.” The Robinson R44 helicopter crashed just after noon local time with two people on board, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement with. The rescue workers of the district of Mecklenburg announced that the two had been declared dead at the scene.
Police said no vehicles on the ground were involved in the accident, which was still messing up traffic on the main road.
“The pilot is a hero in my eyes,” tweeted Johnny Jennings, chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. “Witnesses stated that the pilot removed diversionary maneuvers from the highway to save lives. Because of his exploits, there were no other casualties or vehicles on the highway involved in the incident.’ The boss also told reporters, “We are planning to head into the holiday season when we are supposed to be spending time with our loved ones. And tragically, there are two people involved in this accident who will not be going home and spending the holidays with their family.” Presenters Boll and Grantham spent at least 90 minutes providing live coverage before stopping to hear of the death von Myers and Tayag after ensuring their families were notified.
“The words are hard to find folks, we’ve been holding this for a while,” Boll said, his voice shaking before clearing his throat.
Boll had seen Tayag around 11am Tuesday morning as the pilot was on the helicopter preparing to pick up Myers, the weather forecaster.
“These smiles that you see right there on your screen are those two people,” Boll said from the moderator’s desk.
“Every single day on that newsroom, Chip would wave at you, say hello, and ask how you were. He waved from behind the pilot’s seat of the helicopter,” said Boll. “Jason Myers – I could go on like this. He walked through this office with incredible energy and a smile, just taking care of everyone here.” Myers grew up in Union and Catawba counties, North Carolina, and worked in the city of Raleigh, as well as in Texas and Virginia before moving to the area of Charlotte returned to where he grew up, WBTV said. He and his wife Jillian have four children.
Tayag had been a pilot for more than 20 years, the broadcaster said. He began working for WBTV in 2017 and celebrated their three-year wedding anniversary in August, according to his Instagram page.
Gov. Roy Cooper offered his condolences to the station and the entire North Carolina press corps.
“This is a terrible tragedy for the WBTV family and we pray for them and all those in the media who work so hard to keep the public informed,” Cooper wrote in a tweet.
The National Transportation Safety Board, along with the FAA, will lead an investigation into the crash.