New details in Phoenix copter crash


NEW YORK -- One of the TV station helicopters involved in the fatal Phoenix midair crash late last month was moving while the other remained relatively stable just before the collision, according to an initial report released Friday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Four people, two on each craft, were killed July 27 when the two helicopters collided as they were airborne over Phoenix following a police chase of a suspect in a stolen car. The choppers belonged to ABC affiliate KNXV and independent station KTVK and there were as many as three other news choppers following the chase at the time of the midair collision.

A pilot of one of the other news helicopters told the NTSB that the two choppers were initially a reasonable distance apart until the police broadcast that the suspect had left his stolen vehicle and was carjacking another car. The pilot told the NTSB that he figured he would have to change position in the air to get a better view and was about to do that.

"He glanced away for a moment, and looked back to the accident helicopters while flying toward them," the report said. "He noted that they had moved closer together. Shortly thereafter, they impacted."

The KTVK chopper, which the NTSB said had been stationary, broke into pieces and spun into the ground. The KNXV chopper remained in the air for a second, lost its main rotor blades then nose dived into the ground. Both crashed within 75 feet of each other at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix. Both choppers were heavily damaged by fire.

There was no smoke or erratic movements before the crash, witnesses told the NTSB.

KTVK pilot Scott Bowerbank and cameraman Jim Cox were killed, as were KNXV pilot Craig Smith and cameraman Rick Krolak.

The NTSB did not assign a probable cause to the accident. A final report, which will include probable cause, could take as long as a year. But federal aviation regulations require no pilot should operate an aircraft so close as to create the danger of collision, and that every pilot is responsible to see and avoid hitting other aircraft.

The weather apparently was not a factor, with good visibility at the time of the crash. The NTSB noted that most midair collisions occur during daylight hours with good visibility.