CHARLOTTE — Two employees of a Charlotte television station died in a helicopter crash around noon Tuesday in south Charlotte.
The crash occurred near Interstate 77 at Nations Ford Road. MEDIC confirmed that two people were pronounced dead at the scene.
Around 3 p.m. Tuesday, WBTV released a statement confirming that it was the station’s helicopter involved in the crash.
“The WBTV family is mourning a terrible loss. Our Sky3 news helicopter crashed at midday on Tuesday with two of our colleagues on board,” WBTV said in the statement. “Meteorologist Jason Myers and Pilot Chip Tayag lost their lives. We are working to comfort their families during this difficult time. We appreciate the outpouring of support for our staff and your continued prayers for their families.
The FAA issued a statement Tuesday saying, “A Robinson R44 helicopter crashed near I-77 South and Nations Ford Road in Charlotte, North Carolina at approximately 12:20 p.m. local time today. Two people were on board. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will lead the investigation and provide additional updates. Neither agency identifies those involved in plane crashes.
CMPD chief Johnny Jennings said the pilot was a hero in his eyes.
“It appears the pilot flying the plane made diversionary maneuvers to avoid hitting traffic,” Jennings said.
It’s a tragic day in Charlotte. As we enter the festive season, there are now two members of the community who will not be home to spend time with their families. It is a devastating loss and my thoughts and prayers are with their families and our entire community. https://t.co/Z4OfLVeDFT
— Chief Jennings (@cmpdchief) November 22, 2022
Investigators remained at the scene overnight with some lanes of I-77 reopened.
‘This helicopter is going to crash’: Witnesses recount moments as investigators dig into evidence
Carolyn Russ was driving on I-77 when she saw the accident unfold. She told Channel 9 the helicopter crashed right next to her.
“It was flying from side to side…and I knew immediately the helicopter was going to crash,” Russ told Channel 9.
“It started to dive and it turned around and started going north, and it just crashed to the ground right by the side of the freeway right by my car,” Russ added.
Witness Bridget-Ann Hampden said there was no smoke or fire and the wreckage was “eerily quiet”. She said it looked like the pilot was pulling away from the busy freeway.
“I really feel like he deliberately veered off the freeway because he landed. He wasn’t more than five feet from the lane I was in,” Hampden said.
Hampden said the pilot was a hero.
“Quite frankly, he may have saved my life,” Hampden said. “Because I’m not sure what would have happened, you know? He was so close to me.
Russ said his heart goes out to the families of Tayag and Myers and their WBTV family.
“If you have people you love, tell them you love them while you can,” Russ said.
Channel 9 has learned that the Charlotte District Flight Standards Office with the FAA began surveying the crash site on Tuesday. The local FAA is responsible for reviewing other safety standards for this flight, including flight history, pilot training, and any audio recordings. The NTSB, on the other hand, will be a “recommending authority,” meaning they will come in and determine the probable cause of the crash.
The NTSB said a preliminary report could be released within four to six weeks, but the final report could take 12 to 24 months to release.
An NTSB investigator was scheduled to arrive Tuesday evening and work until Wednesday morning, an agency spokesperson said.
The wreckage will be recovered and transported offsite for further analysis.
The helicopter was a Robinson R-44. Channel 9 asked Bryan Burns, the president of the Air Charter Safety Foundation, about the plane itself.
“It’s a very solid, airworthy trainer, usually for flight schools where people are trying to get their helicopter license,” Burns said.
The NTSB’s final report will most likely contain a probable cause of the crash, along with all contributing factors.
The sky was clear and conditions were relatively calm when the accident occurred.
ABC News aviation expert Jim Nance said it might not matter.
“Helicopters are very affected by the wind, so just because there’s a clear sky above me doesn’t mean everything is clear,” Nance said.
He said the helicopters are “incredibly safe”.
“But when something goes wrong, because it’s a helicopter, our attention is fixed on what happened,” Nance said.
This is a terrible tragedy for the WBTV family and we pray for them and everyone in the media who work so hard to keep the public informed. -RC https://t.co/iVK6pgXLvX
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) November 22, 2022
Our thoughts are with our friends at WBTV on the loss of Jason Myers and Chip Tayag.
We will have a moment of silence at tonight’s Tree Lighting in their honor 💙
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) November 22, 2022
Our deepest condolences to the families of Jason and Chip and the entire WBTV team for the loss of these wonderful members of our community.
— Mayor Vi Lyles (@ViLyles) November 22, 2022
It’s heartbreaking to hear stories of Jason Myers and Chip Tayag from their colleagues, but they offer insight into the importance they both had for the @wbtv_news family and our community. We share our condolences with their friends and families at this difficult time.
— City of Charlotte (@CLTgov) November 22, 2022
Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of WBTV helicopter crew Chip Tayag and Jason Myers and the entire WBTV family.
You are valuable partners in informing our region.
— Dena Diorio (@DenaDiorio) November 22, 2022
This is a developing story. Come back with www.wsoctv.com for updates.
(WATCH BELOW: 2 dead after homemade helicopter crash in Florida)
©2022 Cox Media Group