CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Federal investigators said the Charlotte Airport control tower did not receive a distress 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 for about five miles.
The pilot was in contact with CLT Tower and was given clearance to enter Charlotte air space.
The NTSB said the aircraft made two 360-degree turns over I-77 before “descending rapidly” into the ground next to the highway.
“The WBTV family is grieving a terrible loss. 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,” WBTV said in response to the crash.
NTSB investigators arrived on the scene Tuesday night to investigate the crash scene. The wreckage was taken to a separate facility for further investigation, officials said.
The NTSB said investigators are also compiling witness statements and surveillance video from nearby footage. Anyone who may have witnessed the chopper crash is asked to email witness@NTSB.gov.
A preliminary report on the crash is expected to be released in two-to-three weeks, officials said. However, the probable cause of the crash will be released in the “final report” which could take one-to-two years to be completed.
On Tuesday, CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings credited the pilot with making the “heroic” decision to crash in the grass and not the roadway.
“[It] seems the pilot made some diversionary moves to avoid hitting traffic,” CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said. “Looks like a heroic incident where the pilot tried to avoid injuring anyone else and putting anyone else in danger. That pilot is a hero in my eyes…to the safety and security of everyone on the road.”
Read the full statement from the NTSB:
The helicopter, operated by Total Traffic and Weather Network, took off from the WBTV helipad and proceeded south for about five miles. The aircraft was in contact with CLT Tower and obtained clearance to enter CLT air space. It proceeded to do two 360-degree turns over 1-77 before descending rapidly into the ground adjacent to the highway. The pilot and the other passenger sustained fatal injuries. CLT Tower received no distress calls from the pilot.
The NTSB arrived on scene last night for initial on scene investigation. That work continued this morning and included moving the wreckage to a separate facility for further investigation. Investigators are compiling witness statements and surveillance video from nearby buildings. The NTSB encourages anyone who may have witnessed the crash to email witness@NTSB.gov.
The NTSB will release a preliminary report in 2-3 weeks that will contain all the factual data collected 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 in the final report, which can take from 12-24 months to be completed.