Two WBTV employees in Charlotte, North Carolina, were killed Tuesday afternoon in a horrific helicopter crash.
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 its website Tuesday, the station said it was “working to comfort its families” during this time.
“The WBTV family mourns a terrible loss. Our Sky3 media helicopter crashed at midday on Tuesday with two of our colleagues on board,’ the statement read.
The helicopter was destroyed following the accident
Chip Tayag and Jason Myers were identified as the victims killed in the helicopter crash Tuesday afternoon in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Emergency personnel work at the scene of a helicopter crash on the side of Interstate 77 South in Charlotte, North Carolina
“Meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag lost their lives. We are working to comfort their families during this difficult time.
“We appreciate the outpouring of support for our staff and your continued prayers for their families,” the station said Tuesday.
At a press conference after the crash, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Johnny Jennings called Tayag a hero and said his “diversionary moves” had saved countless lives.
“It appears that the pilot flying the aircraft made some diversionary maneuvers to avoid hitting the traffic. Fortunately, there was no vehicle involved.
“And I think that’s as we move forward. To me, this looks like a heroic incident where the pilot tried to avoid hurting someone else and putting someone else in danger.
And if that’s really the case, then this pilot is a hero to knock my eyes out,’ Jennings said.
According to WBTV, Tayag had flown for the station more than 2,000 hours in his five years and had more than 3,700 flights in his log.
The FAA said in a statement it was investigating the crash, which happened around 12:20 p.m.
“This driver is a hero to knock my eyes out,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Johnny Jennings said of reports that Tayag used “entertainment” tactics to avoid the freeway.
The National Transportation Safety Board will also be involved in the investigation into the causes of the accident and the deaths 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 to be one of the best pilots and was constantly studying to become a better pilot”.
“We have always said that if we could replicate Chip and his piloting skills, organizational skills and attention to detail, our business would be better off.”
“He always cared about the job he was doing and made an effort to make all of his passengers comfortable while covering the news in Charlotte,” Total Traffic and Weather Network said after his death.
Myers was from North Carolina and even “watched WBTV as a kid,” the station said in its statement Tuesday.
The meteorologist leaves behind a wife, Jillian, and four children.
Jilian and Jason were childhood friends and lovers.
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 third birthday in August
Jason Myers was originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, and grew up watching the station he eventually worked at as an adult, officials said.
Jason married his childhood friend, Jillian, and the couple had four children together
Fighting back tears during a broadcast, anchors Jamie Boll and Molly Grantham mourned their colleagues while providing updates as they received them.
They included witness reports that Tayag prevented the helicopter from crashing into Interstate-77 during a busy vacation week.
“Jamie and I are learning it here as our newsroom learns about it and tries to figure it out while crying deeply…” Grantham said on the show.
“We’re giving the news and all of us – all – of our WBTV family mourn Chip and Jason because we love them.”
Boll and Grantham spent at least 90 minutes providing live coverage before stopping to confirm the deaths of Myers and Tayag, after ensuring their families were notified.
The show did not cut a screen showing photos of Myers and Tayag for nearly two minutes as the presenters grappled with the news of their colleagues’ deaths.
Molly Grantham (left) and Jamie Boll (left) had to confirm the news of their colleagues’ deaths live after the families of Myers and Tayag were notified
WBTV presenters said they were working to deliver the latest on the story while “deeply mourning” their friends.
Tributes began pouring in late Tuesday afternoon from friends, colleagues and even those who didn’t know the couple.
Just hours after their death, the Carolina Panthers shared their condolences and announced they would honor WBTV employees at a tree lighting scheduled for Tuesday night.
“Our hearts go out to our friends at WBTV for the loss of Jason Myers and Chip Tayag.
“We will have a moment of silence during tonight’s tree lighting in their honor,” the team said in a tweet.
The Carolina Panthers shared their condolences on Tuesday while announcing a moment of silence would take place during a tree lighting event
Another WBTV employee shared a photo of himself in the Sky3 helicopter that Tayag and Myers were in when they died at a memorial post.
Charlotte TV reporter David Whisenant asked fans to pray for the WBTV family as well as the families of the victims.
“Yeah, I had a goofy look on my face because I was so excited to fly Chip in Sky 3,” Whisenant said of one of the photos he shares.
If you pray, pray for his family, @JMyersWeather’s family and our @WBTV_News family. We are suffering.
The Charlotte Hornets, the city’s Major League Basketball team, offered their condolences and called the helicopter crash a “devastating tragedy”.
“We send our condolences to the families of Jason Myers and Chip Tayag and everyone at WBTV following today’s devastating tragedy,” the team wrote.
WBTV reporting partner Axios Charlotte also released a public statement on Tuesday calling Tayag, Myers and the entire station team “some of the finest human beings 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 died in a helicopter crash today. WBTV is our news partner, and the people who work there are some of the finest humans in the business. We are devastated for them,” the outlet said.
Axios Charlotte, a “press partner” with WBTV, said those working at the station are “some of the finest humans in the business” and said they were “devastated”.
“This is a terrible tragedy for the WBTV family and we pray for them and everyone in the media who work so hard to keep the public informed,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said.
For hours after the accident, several lanes of traffic were closed to the public near the Nations Ford Road exit.
“Two lanes have reopened on I-77 southbound for commuters. Please drive carefully as we still have workers on the scene,’ Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officials said just before 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.