Two dead as ‘heroic’ news helicopter pilot takes ‘evasive action’ to crash near I-77 in North Carolina

A crashed helicopter (upper right) just outside Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday 22 November 2022 (WBTV)
A crashed helicopter (upper right) just outside Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday 22 November 2022 (WBTV)

Two people are dead after a TV news helicopter crashed near the I-77 highway in North Carolina just south of Charlotte on Tuesday.

WBTV, a local news station, confirmed that its Sky 3 weather helicopter had gone down earlire that day, killing pilot Chip Tayag and meteorologist Jason Myers.

"The WBTV family is grieving a terrible loss," said the broadcaster. “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 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) said it had been called to the crash around 12pm on Tuesday, adding that no vehicles were struck or damaged.

“Tragically there are two people involved in this crash that will not be going home and spending the holidays with their families,” said CMPD chief Johnny Jennings at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s a tragic loss... I do ask that we pray for the families of both of these victims. It’s gonna be a difficult holiday season.”

Witness reports indicated that the pilot may have taken deliberate action to avoid crashing onto the highway itself, potentially saving many lives.

A man who saw the crash happen told local brodcaster WCNC Charlotte: “My impression is that he apparently knew he was in trouble. He circled looking for a place to put that down.

“And on the second circle, I don't think he had any choice, it was going down, and he got it just off the highway and avoided it...

“You never know what's in somebody's head, but I think that he absolutely knew that he was going to have to put that down. Whoever the pilot was, did their best to put that down where they weren't going to injure a lot of people."

Mr Jennings backed up this assessment: “I have heard that as well. It seems the pilot that was operating the aircraft made some diversionary moves to avoid hitting traffic.

“Fortunately there were no vehicles involved in it, and as we move forward, to me it looks like a heroic incident where the pilot tried to avoid injuring anyone else and putting anyone else in danger.

“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 on the road was not in jeopardy.”

According to WBTV, Mr Myers, the meteorologist, had grown up in the outskirts of Charlotte watching the news station and worked in Texas and Virginia before he “came back home”. He is survived by his wife Jillian and four children.

Mr Tayag was a pilot with more than 20 years’ experience who joined WBTV in 2017.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) identified the aircraft as a Robinson R44 chopper, saying that it crashed around 12:20 local time.

This story was updated at 1:21pm PST on Tuesday 22 November 2022 to add the names of the victims.