Crashes involving news helicopters

A list of U.S. crashes involving television news helicopters:

— A pilot and photographer were killed in October 2008 in the crash of a Houston television-news helicopter in Montgomery County, Texas. The crew was covering a shootout when the copter went down without making a distress call.

Killed were pilot John Downhower, 43, and KTRK-TV photographer Dave Garrett, 36, when the helicopter dropped at a steep angle and hit the ground.

— In July 2007, two television-news helicopters collided in midair while covering a police chase near downtown Phoenix, killing all four people aboard.

The helicopters exploded in the air, then crashed in a park, with at least one helicopter exploding again as it hit the ground, witnesses said.

No one on the ground was injured.

Those killed were a pilot, Craig Smith, and a photographer, Rick Krolak, of KNXV, the ABC affiliate; and a pilot, Scott Bowerbank, and a photographer, Jim Cox, of KTVK, an independent station.

Six helicopters were in the air at the time of the collision — five news helicopters and a police helicopter.

— In October 1988, a pilot-reporter and a photographer for KUSA-TV in Denver were killed when their helicopter crashed after hitting a power line in west-central Colorado.

Pilot Leo Galanis and photographer Brian Hostetler were returning to Denver from the scene of a plane crash when the helicopter crashed about 15 miles southwest of the city.

In addition, there have been several crashes in Washington state involving news helicopters:

— In November 1999, a KIRO-TV helicopter collided with a second chopper about 1,000 feet above Lake Union. Both aircraft landed safely, and no one was seriously injured.

“The impact happened almost simultaneously,” Clark Stahl, who was flying the KIRO helicopter, told The Seattle Times after the accident. “I saw the helicopter, I felt the impact. Then things kind of went to hell.”

Stahl was able to set down on the rooftop landing pad on KIRO’s downtown headquarters. The second pilot, Jess Hagerman, landed at the University of Washington’s helipad. He was flying a charter helicopter for Aero Copters of Seattle.

A cameraman riding in Stahl’s helicopter was uninjured, but Stahl suffered minor cuts on his hands after the impact shattered his windshield.

The damage to the Aero Copters helicopter was mainly confined to a dented rotor blade.

— Two people were killed in May 1985 when a helicopter being flown for KREM-TV crashed while covering the annual Bloomsday race in Spokane.

Television photojournalist Gary Brown and helicopter-company owner Cliff Richey were lifting off when the rotor blade of the Hughes 500D helicopter struck a television-tower guy wire, about 60 feet off the ground, and the craft crashed in the TV station’s parking lot.

Richey, a highly decorated Vietnam copter pilot, was a fill-in for Dale McCormick, who regularly flew KREM-TV’s Chopper 2, owned by Price Airmotive.

McCormick said he was grounded by a flight surgeon who had prescribed medication for a skin infection. The TV station made arrangements for Richey’s company, Spokane Helicopter Service, to handle the assignment.

— In May 1980, a helicopter owned by KIRO-TV collided with an airplane owned by KOMO-TV while covering Memorial Day traffic. No one was injured.

KIRO’s Bell 206B helicopter and KOMO’s Cessna 172M airplane were damaged, but were able to make emergency landings on a golf course.

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story, which includes information from Times archives.

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