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Thu, Nov 24, 2022

North Carolina News Helicopter Accident Claims Two Lives

WBTV Personnel Mourn Meteorologist and Pilot

Two people lost their lives when a news helicopter operated by WBTV—a North Carolina CBS affiliate television station—went down approximately six-nautical-miles southwest of Charlotte near the intersection of Interstate 77 and Nations Ford Road. Local police report no street-vehicles were involved in the accident.

The downed aircraft, a 1999 Robinson R44 (N7094J) known colloquially as Sky3, was owned by Metro Networks Communications Inc. of San Antonio, Texas.

WBTV meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag lost their lives in the accident—the cause of which remains unknown.

Mr. Myers, a North Carolina native was remembered by coworkers as “… a calm, comforting and charismatic meteorologist,” “… the light of the station,” and “ … a family man through and through.” He leaves behind a wife and four children.

Mr. Tayag logged 3,700-hours of total flight-time over twenty-years as a licensed pilot, and more than two-thousand-hours in the R44 since joining WBTV in 2017.

"The WBTV family is grieving a terrible loss. Our news helicopter, Sky3, crashed mid-day Tuesday with two of our colleagues on board," WBTV put forth in a statement. "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."

Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper echoed WBTV’s sentiments in a tweet reading: "This is a terrible tragedy for the WBTV family and we are praying for them and all of those in the media who work so hard to keep the public informed.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) Chief Johnny Jennings called the two deaths a "devastating loss" while praising Mr. Tayag, whose airmanship is believed to have kept the helicopter from impacting the highway and endangering the lives of the motorists commuting thereupon.  

"The pilot is a hero in my eyes," Chief Jennings tweeted. "Witnesses indicated that the pilot made diversionary moves away from the highway to save lives. Because of his heroic acts, there were no further injuries or vehicles on the highway involved in the incident."

WBTV also extolled Mr. Tayag’s professionalism and conscientiousness, stating: "We always said that if we could duplicate Chip and his piloting skills, his organizational abilities and attention to detail, our company would be better off. He always cared about the job he was doing and strived to make all of his passengers comfortable while covering the news in Charlotte.”

A witness to the accident suggested Tayag was aware the aircraft was in peril. "He circled looking for a place to put that down,” the unidentified witness reported, “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. That could've injured a lot of people. It's a tragic thing, but in that sense, he did a marvelous job."

According to online flight-tracking data, N7094J departed the WBTV heliport (NC90) at 11:50 EST. ATC radar contact with the R44 was lost at 11:56 EST. Two-minutes later, Charlotte emergency agencies were inundated with calls reporting a helicopter crash near I-77 and Tyvola Road. Charlotte Fire, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and Medic crews were subsequently dispatched to the scene. At 13:18 EST, to better assess the accident-site, police closed all lanes of southbound I-77. Charlotte news station WCNC reported at 13:44 EST that the downed helicopter belonged to WBTV. Four-minutes later, the NTSB confirmed it was investigating an accident involving WBTV’s news helicopter. At 15:10 EST, WBTV identified the accident victims as meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag. The southbound lanes of I-77 were reopened at 16:26 EST.

The accident remains under investigation by the FAA, the NTSB, and local police.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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