CHARLOTTE, NC (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Federal investigators said Charlotte Airport’s control tower did not receive an emergency call from the pilot of a WBTV News helicopter that crashed along Interstate-77 on Tuesday.
According to a statement from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Robinson R44 helicopter took off from the WBTV helipad and flew south about five miles.
The pilot was in contact with the CLT Tower and was cleared to enter Charlotte airspace.
The NTSB said the aircraft made two 360-degree turns over I-77 before “rapidly accelerating” into the ground next to the highway.
Meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag were both killed in the impact.
“The WBTV family is grieving a terrible loss. Our Sky3 news helicopter crashed in the middle of the day Tuesday with two of our colleagues on board. Meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag lost their lives. We are working to comfort their families at this difficult time. We appreciate the outpouring of support to our staff and your continued prayers for their families,” WBTV said in response to the crash.
NTSB investigators arrived at the scene Tuesday night to examine the crash site. The wreckage was taken to a separate facility for further examination, officials said.
The NTSB said investigators are also compiling witness statements and surveillance video from nearby footage. Anyone who may have witnessed the helicopter crash is asked to email [email protected]
A preliminary report on the crash is expected to be released within two to three weeks, officials said. However, the probable cause of the crash will be published in the “final report” which could take one to two years to complete.
On Tuesday, CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings credited the pilot for making the “heroic” decision to crash on the grass and not the roadway.
“[It] The pilot appears to have taken some diversionary action to avoid hitting traffic, CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said. “It looks like a heroic incident where the pilot tried to avoid harming anyone else and putting anyone else at risk. That pilot is a hero in my eyes … for the safety and security of everyone on the road.”
Read the full statement from the NTSB:
The helicopter, operated by the Total Traffic and Weather Network, took off from the WBTV helipad and continued south for about three miles. The aircraft was in contact with the CLT Tower and cleared to enter the CLT airspace. It proceeded to make two 360-degree turns over 1-77 before quickly sinking into the ground next to the freeway. The pilot and the other passenger suffered fatal injuries. The CLT Tower received no distress calls from the pilot.
The NTSB arrived at the scene last night for an initial on-scene investigation. That work continued this morning and included moving the wreckage to a separate facility for further examination. Investigators are compiling witness statements and surveillance video from nearby buildings. The NTSB encourages anyone who may have witnessed the crash to email [email protected]
The NTSB will release a preliminary report within 2-3 weeks that will include all the facts gathered up to that point. Media can find that report on Twitter: @NTSB_Newsroom when it is published. The probable cause of the crash and any contributing factors will be included in the final report, which could take from 12-24 months to complete.