Meteorologist, pilot killed when Sky3 helicopter crashes on I-77
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said Tuesday that two people were killed when a news helicopter crashed on Interstate 77 south of uptown.
WBTV News confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Sky3, its helicopter, was the aircraft in the crash. The pilot, Chip Tayag, and meteorologist Jason Myers were killed.
“The WBTV family is grieving a terrible loss," WBTV said 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.”
Multiple emergency crews were still on the scene Tuesday afternoon near the Nations Ford Road exit, and Police Chief Johnny Jennings said he expected air crash investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration would arrive soon.
Jennings said no cars were involved in the crash. I-77 South was shut down for hours. Although two lanes reopened around 4:30 p.m., Jennings said drivers should avoid the area, and delays were expected to persist overnight into Wednesday.
From what witnesses told CMPD, Jennings said it appeared the pilot tried to avoid hitting vehicles.
"It seems the pilot that was operating the aircraft made some diversionary moves to avoid traffic," said Jennings. "It looks like a heroic incident where the pilot tried to avoid injuring anyone else. If that is truly the case, that pilot is a hero in my eyes."
I-77 South was closed for much of the afternoon at Exit 5, Tyvola Road. Other on- and off-ramps were closed nearby. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools warned school buses could be delayed throughout the county's south, southeast and southwest.
Local police secured the area to await federal investigators, Jennings said.
Pictures posted on Twitter showed a blue "3" that appeared to be WBTV's logo on the crashed helicopter's crumpled skin.
The flight-tracking company Flight Aware shows a helicopter took off from the WBTV television station on West Morehead Street at 11:50 a.m. and then ended its journey about five minutes later near I-77 and Nations Ford Road.
Flight Aware shows the helicopter made a loop over the inte rstate before its flight ended.
The same helicopter — a Robinson R44 — had already flown once this morning and had made three flights on Monday.
"We're looking at going into the holiday season where we're supposed to be spending time with our loved ones," said Jennings. "And tragically, there are two people involved in this crash that will not be going home, and will not be spending the holidays with their families. So it's a huge loss, tragic loss."
A father of 4 and a veteran pilot
Myers grew up outside of Charlotte. He was born in Salisbury, and lived in Union and Catawba counties as a child.
"Jason first developed his interest in weather, while working on a 3rd grade science project; which included taking a weather class at Discovery Place in Charlotte, and making a homemade weather station with the help of his Mom," his biography on WBTV says.
After graduating from N.C. State University, Myers worked at Raleigh-Durham International Airport before working as a meteorologist at TV stations in Texas, Virginia and Kentucky. He returned to North Carolina in 2019 to work at WBTV alongside meteorologists he grew up watching, such as Al Conklin.
Myers and his wife have four children, according to WBTV.
Tayag had worked at WBTV since 2017. An experienced pilot, he had been flying for more than 20 years. According to his LinkedIn profile, he had previously worked as a helicopter tour pilot in Myrtle Beach, as well as in Maryland.
He had also previously worked as a pilot for a commercial photography business and for utility companies. Before becoming a pilot, he was an IT professional.
"He clocked in over 3,700 flight hours in Sky3. He always made all of us feel safe," said WBTV anchor Molly Grantham, in a tribute the station posted.
WFAE reporter Sarah Delia contributed.
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