A Story Made For a News Helicopter So Where Was It?

Less than one week after four people die after news helicopters in Phoenix collided while following the car chase du jour,  a bridge collapses in St. Paul/Minneapolis.  It was a story begging for a chopper.  My wife had the TV tuned to MSNBC so I’m not sure what the other stations did to cover this in the first hour but the feed I saw came from the NBC affiliate KARE.  Most of the video in that first hour came from a tower cam that didn’t show much at all.  I kept thinking that it was from some “mast-cam” from a live truck that couldn’t be moved.  I kept waiting for the chopper shot.  In fact, the chopper shot didn’t show up for almost 45-minutes.  Since the bridge collapse occurred right after 6 o’clock during the news hour, the chopper must have been in use elsewhere in the city or perhaps grounded because of weather.  I’m not sure which.  When we finally saw aerial shots, they were great.

Now we will see the “what if” scenario here in the Memphis area and we’ll probably hear from people who are reluctant to drive over any bridge in the MidSouth.  We’ve actually already experienced such a tragedy in this area.  I remember on Saturday April 1st, 1989  I was working the weekend night shift and we started getting calls that  a bridge collapsed north of Covington, TN and several vehicles were in the water.  We thought the first calls were from April Fools pranksters.  Turns out the reports of a bridge collapse were true.  This was before satellite trucks were common and no one in the Memphis market had a chopper.  Microwave live trucks couldn’t get a shot out from the scene.  More than a half dozen people died when the bridge collapsed and it prompted the state to examine most of the bridges in Tennessee.

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3 Comments on “A Story Made For a News Helicopter So Where Was It?”

  1. Jeff Says:

    The Bridge Collapse had to be horrifying for everyone on the bridge,I happened so fast.Its was horrific for me just seeing the replays.My Thoughts and Prayers to everyone involved.

    Live leak has a couple of videos that I had not seen on the news yet.

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=658_1186027935
    LiveLeak.com – Raw look at the MN collapsed bridge…

  2. BJV Says:

    Minneapolis, MN – The accident happened a little after 6pm Memphis time, traffic reporters said there was a 15 minuite wait to get accross the bridge at 5:45pm. The birds were over the scene from all four stations shortly afterwords providing great video. They were asked to move for rescue helicopters then were chased off by a thunderstorm then the FAA threw up a TFR that restricted traffic to a couple of miles away. The chopper breakdown went like this:

    News:
    4 CBS Bell 206B Pilot, Photographer
    5 ABC A-Star Pilot, Photographer and a reporter
    9 FOX Bell 206B Pilot, Photographer
    11 NBC Bell 206B Pilot, Photographer

    Rescue:
    Minnesota State Patrol millitary equal to Bell 206B
    Plus medical helos that I did not get a good look at..

    Story idea:
    While the scene was tragic, everything seem to go smoothly as the crews were trained for working well together with city, county, state and even federal. The FBI was out helping rescue folks. In a stroke of luck, the Red Cross Headquarters is located 2 blocks from the accident site.

    The Metrodome which was about 5 blocks from the accident has an emeregeny plan for almost any situation and trains their staff to react. Cancelling the game would have turned 20,000 folks on the streets and caused gridlock. Keeping them inside allowed MDOT to put up signs to reroute traffic and the stadium flashed messages and had directions on the loudspeakers for safe directions home after the game.

    The medical centers in the area worked together flawlessly.

    The question, will Memphis area agencies be able to work together without people in a power struggle? Will crews from three states be able to work together as one? Finally, will the citizens be able to aid and not hinder the rescue efforts? For the most part, it all worked Wednesday in MSP. It would be a nice case study for a reporter.

    Reporting alive and well in the Twin Cities, Blake Johnson for JoeLarkins.WordPress.com

  3. Doug Viar Says:

    This is the first time for me to vent my thoughts on a blog site about anything. In fact only my second or third time to comment on the inet about something that I have read. I know you folks who know me from years past find that hard to believe but yes, I have pulled back a bit. I day trade stocks, ride my Goldwing motorcycle and for those in the know you are aware of my business venture as it still involves the media.

    As a pilot who spent some 4000-5000 in the air over the years, (up until the late 90s when I quit flying) and a former cop I have some thoughts about both chasing chases from the air and pursuing the chased on the ground.

    In know way do I want to blame anyone for the horrible mid-air Arizona collision but “someone” was a fault. Most air disasters are “pilot error”, that means the pilot did or did not do something that he or she should have done or not done. Flying is even more complex now than it was when I was flying. There are more flying machines in the sky, more rules (thanks to 911) and more distractions. One of those distractions is trying to fly and report at the same time. If your eyes are looking at what is going on below they are not looking at what’s going on in the air and this is an invitation to disaster. Frankly I am surprised that it has not happened before and often. You cannot fly and report at the same time. One or the other is getting less attention than needed and flying needs all of your attention as a pilot.

    The FAA has assigned each pilot a working altitude and that altitude is to be mantained for seperation and safety. If a pilot strays from that altitude then a mid air becomes a possibility. In order to stay at the assigned altitude the pilot must pay attention to his instruments. Yes there are auto pilots but here we are talking about non- auto pilot equipped helecopters.

    The Arizona event should demonstrate the need to once again seperate the pilot and the reporter. The pilot needs to fly, the reporter needs to report and the camera operator needs to operate the camera. If your helicopter is not large enought to carry all three then gat a larger one. One more thought, do not carry the chase live, that only fuels the chase. How you say, well consider that just maybe the chased is talking to his buddy on a cell phone who is watching on TV, now he is known, he is famous and is going to play it out for all its worth, now it has become a game

    Cops should also refrain from chasing everybody that runs, such as non felons and when they do chase use common sense and do not put innocent people at risk. If its a litte ole lady who ran a red light, get her license number and meet her at the house. If it’s a capital crime then chase responsibly. To many innocent lives are being lost on wild, useless chases. Believe or not criminals are repeat offenders and in a lot of the chases the criminal is known to the cops while the chase is going on. Would it not be a lot safer and just maybe save an innocent person’s life to call off the chase, let the dust settle and wait for the criminal to show up at this favorite resting place and arrest him.

    Every coin has to sides and I am sure someone will flip this to their way of thinking but at least you know how I feel.


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