2 dead in helicopter crash near I-77 in south Charlotte

CHARLOTTE — Two employees of a Charlotte television station died in a helicopter crash that happened around noon Tuesday in south Charlotte.

The accident occurred near Interstate 77 at Nations Ford Road. MEDIC confirmed that two people were pronounced deceased on the scene.

At about 3 p.m. Tuesday, WBTV released a statement confirming that it was the station’s helicopter involved in the crash.

“The WBTV family is grieving a terrible loss. Our news helicopter Sky3 crashed mid-day 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 in this difficult time. We appreciate the outpouring of support for our staff and your continued prayers for their families.”

The FAA released a statement Tuesday saying: “A Robinson R44 helicopter crashed near I-77 South and Nations Ford Road in Charlotte, N.C., around 12:20 local time today. Two people were on board. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide additional updates. Neither agency identifies people involved in aircraft accidents.”

CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said the pilot is a hero in his eyes.

“It seems the pilot who was operating the aircraft made some diversionary moves to avoid hitting traffic,” Jennings said.

Investigators remained at the scene into the night. The interstate reopened around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

‘That helicopter is going to crash’: Witnesses recount moments as investigators dig through evidence

Carolyn Russ was driving down I-77 when she saw the crash unfold. She told Channel 9 the helicopter went down right beside her.

“It was flying kind of side to side ... and I knew immediately that helicopter is going to crash,” Russ said to Channel 9.

“It started doing a nosedive and it turned around and started going north, and it just crashed into the ground right on the side of the highway right next to my car,” Russ added.

Witness Bridget-Ann Hampden said there wasn’t any smoke or fire and the wreck was “eerily silent.” She said it appeared the pilot divert away from the busy interstate.

“I really feel that he deliberately veered off from the highway because when he landed. He was not 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 am not sure what would have happened, you know? He was so close to me.”

Russ said her heart goes out to the families of Tayag and Myers and their WBTV family.

“If you have people who you love, tell them that you love them while you can,” Russ said.

Gofundme accounts have been started for Tayag’s and Myers’ families. You can donate to Tayag’s family by clicking this link. You can donate to Myers’ family by clicking this link.

The investigation

Channel 9 learned that the Charlotte Flight Standards District Office with the FAA began canvassing the crash site Tuesday. The local FAA is in charge of looking into other safety standards of this flight, including the flight history, pilot training, and any audio recordings. The NTSB, on the other hand, will be a “recommending authority,” meaning they’ll come in and determine the probable cause for the crash.

The NTSB said a preliminary report could be out within four to six weeks, but the final report may take 12-24 months to be released.

An NTSB investigator was expected to arrive Tuesday night and work through Wednesday morning, an agency spokesperson said.

The wreckage will be recovered and taken to an off-site location 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 aircraft itself.

“It’s a very airworthy, very solid training aircraft, typically for flight schools that folks are trying to their helicopter license in,” Burns said.

The NTSB’s final report will most likely contain a probable cause of the crash, along with any contributing factors.

The skies were clear and conditions were relatively calm when the accident happened.

ABC News aviation expert Jim Nance said that may not matter.

“Helicopters are very much affected by wind, so just because it’s clear skies overhead, doesn’t tell me the whole tale,” Nance said.

He said helicopters are “incredibly safe.”

“But when something goes wrong, because it’s a helicopter, our attention is riveted on what happened,” Nance said.

This is a developing story. Check back with wsoctv.com for updates.

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