A pilot and meteorologist with the WBTV news station in Charlotte died in a helicopter crash around noon Tuesday in Charlotte, off Interstate 77 South.
Just after 3 p.m., WBTV confirmed that the victims were meteorologist Jason Myers and Sky3 pilot Chip Tayag.
The crash happened in a grassy area just off the highway, close to Tyvola and Nations Ford Road, according to Medic and other emergency officials. Three other people were transported to the hospital, Medic reported.
“The WBTV family is grieving a terrible loss,” the station said in a statement.
“Our news helicopter Sky3 crashed mid-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 in this difficult time. We appreciate the outpouring of support for our staff and your continued prayers for their families.”
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Myers is from in Union and Catawba counties and married his childhood sweetheart, they have four children, WBTV said. Tayag came to WBTV five years ago as an ENG pilot operating Sky3. He had been a pilot for more than 20 years.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings said it seems Tayag made “diversionary moves” to avoid hitting traffic. He called the pilot a hero and said the helicopter didn’t hit any vehicles in the roadway.
“It looks like a heroic incident where the pilot tried to avoid injuring anyone else, or putting anyone else in danger,” Jennings said.
Investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, both federal agencies, are expected to arrive in Charlotte in response to the crash.
The crash shut down all southbound lanes of Interstate 77 for close to four hours. At 4:30 p.m., police advised drivers to be cautious as two lanes were reopening to traffic.
Jennings said CMPD, the State Highway Patrol and Charlotte Fire will be maintaining the scene until investigators arrive.
“Tragically there are two people involved in this crash that will not be going home, will not be spending the holidays with their families,” Jennings said. He asked for prayers for the families.
Helicopter crash in Charlotte
What caused the crash is not yet known. The police chief said there’s no indication there was a fire.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police received a call that the WBTV helicopter crashed just before noon, according to emergency radio communications via Broadcastify. A general alarm activated multiple engines and personnel with Charlotte Fire.
The crash happened between exits 4 and 5 on I-77 south.
A witness to the crash told WCNC the pilot attempted to save lives.
“He circled looking for a place to put that down. 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.”
FAA helicopter crash investigation
The FAA sent a statement about the crash via email. The agency said the aircraft was aRobinson R44 helicopter and two people were on board.
“The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate,” the FAA said. “The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide additional updates. Neither agency identifies people involved in aircraft accidents.”
After investigators verify the aircraft registration number at the scene, the FAA will release it on this webpage, the statement said.
Jason Myers and Chip Tayag remembered
On the air, WBTV anchor Molly Grantham said Meterologist Jason Myers “really cared about people.”
“He had a big heart and really wanted to give back to the community,” she said. “This was a dream of his to work at WBTV. We’re still processing what’s going on.”
Myers wasn’t just a “weather guy,” Grantham said.
“He wanted to be a part of everything around him,” she said.
WBTV Jamie Boll added: “I’ve never seen him have a bad day, Sunny disposition. Always excited to see people. I’m at a loss for words. He was a bright star in this building all of the time.”
Boll and Grantham remembered pilot Chip Tayag fondly. Grantham said Tayag was the consummate professional with so much experience.
“Same with Chip,” Boll said.
Pointing to their profile photos showing them smiling, he said: “That’s how they always were.”
Reporters Genna Contino and Alex Zietlow contributed.
This is a developing story.