Two employees of WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina, were killed in a horrific helicopter crash Tuesday afternoon.
The local news station confirmed the deaths of meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag after the helicopter they were traveling in crashed along Interstate 77.
In a statement posted on their website Tuesday, the station said they are “working during this time to comfort their families.”
“The WBTV family is mourning a terrible loss. Our Sky3 news helicopter crashed on Tuesday afternoon with two of our colleagues on board,” the statement said.
Emergency services are at work at the scene of a helicopter crash on the side of Interstate 77 South in Charlotte, NC
The helicopter was destroyed after the crash
Chip Tayag and Jason Myers have been identified as the victims who died in Tuesday afternoon’s helicopter crash in Charlotte, North Carolina
Meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag were killed. We are working to comfort their families during this difficult time.
“We appreciate the messages of support for our staff and your continued prayers for their families,” the station said Tuesday.
Speaking at a post-crash press conference, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings called Tayag a hero and said his “diversion tactics” saved countless lives.
“It appears that the pilot flying the aircraft made some diversionary maneuvers to avoid disrupting traffic. Fortunately, no vehicles were involved.
“And I think that’s as we move forward. To me, it looks like a heroic incident where the pilot tried to prevent someone else from getting hurt and endangering someone else.
And if that’s really the case, then that pilot is a hero to look into my eyes,” Jennings said.
According to WBTV, Tayag had flown more than 2,000 hours to the station in his five years and had more than 3,700 flights in his logbook.
The FAA said in a statement that they are investigating the crash, which occurred around 12:20 p.m.
“That pilot is a hero to look into my eyes,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings said of reports that Tayag used “distraction tactics” to avoid the highway
The National Transportation Safety Board will also assist in the investigation into the cause of the crash and the death of WBTV employees.
In the statement released by the local news station, Tayag had been a pilot for more than 20 years and “was known in the business as one of the best pilots and was constantly studying to make himself a better pilot.”
“We’ve always said our company would be better off if we could duplicate Chip and his piloting skills, organizational skills and attention to detail.
“He always cared about the job he did and strived to make all of his passengers feel comfortable while doing the news in Charlotte,” Total Traffic and Weather Network said after his death.
Originally from North Carolina, Myers “even watched WBTV as a kid,” the station said in their statement Tuesday.
The meteorologist is survived by a wife, Jillian, and four children.
Jilian and Jason were childhood friends and sweethearts.
Myers had previously worked in Raleigh, Texas and Virginia. He was a graduate of North Carolina State University.
Chip Tayag and his wife, with whom he just celebrated his three-year anniversary in August
Anchors Jamie Boll and Molly Grantham fought back tears during a broadcast and mourned their colleagues as they gave updates as they received them.
They include witness statements that during a busy holiday week, Tayag prevented the helicopter from crashing into Interstate-77.
“Jamie and I are learning here as our editorial team learns and tries to figure it out as we deeply grieve…” Grantham said on the air.
“We’re breaking the news and we’re all — all — of our WBTV family mourning Chip and Jason because we love them.”
Boll and Grantham spent at least 90 minutes on live coverage before stopping to confirm the deaths of Myers and Tayag, after making sure their families were notified.
The broadcast didn’t cut away from a screen showing photos of Myers and Tayag for nearly two minutes as the anchors grappled with the news of their colleagues’ deaths.
Tributes began pouring in late Tuesday afternoon from friends, colleagues and even those who didn’t know the pair.
Just hours after their deaths, the Carolina Panthers shared their condolences and announced they would honor the WBTV employees at a tree lighting event scheduled for Tuesday night.
Our thoughts are with our friends at WBTV on the loss of Jason Myers and Chip Tayag.
“We will hold a moment of silence in their honor during Tree Lighting tonight,” the team said in a tweet.
Another WBTV contributor shared a photo of herself in the Sky3 helicopter that Tayag and Myers were on when they died in a memorial post.
David Whisenant, a reporter at the Charlotte television station, asked fans to pray for both the WBTV family and the families of the victims.
“Yeah, I had this weird look on my face because I was so excited to go fly in Sky 3 with Chip,” Whisenant said of one of the photos he shared.
When you pray, please pray for his family, @JMyersWeather’s family, and our @WBTV_News family. We’re in pain.’
The Charlotte Hornets, the city’s major league basketball team, expressed their condolences and called the helicopter crash a “devastating tragedy.”
“We extend our condolences to the families of Jason Myers and Chip Tayag and everyone at WBTV following today’s devastating tragedy,” the team wrote.
WBTV’s reporting partner, Axios Charlotte, also issued a public statement Tuesday calling Tayag, Myers and the entire team at the station “one of the best people in the business.”
“We at Axios Charlotte would like to extend our condolences to the friends and family of WBTV’s Jason Myers and Chip Tayag, who were killed in a helicopter crash today. WBTV is our news partner and the people who work there are some of the best people in the industry. We are devastated for them,” the news outlet said.
“This is a terrible tragedy for the WBTV family and we pray for them and all those in the media who work so hard to keep the public informed,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said.
Hours after the crash, several lanes of traffic were closed to the public near the Nations Ford Road exit.
“Two lanes have reopened on southbound I-77 for commuters. Please drive carefully as we still have workers on site,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officials said just before 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.