Phoenix — Two news helicopters covering a police chase on live television collided and crashed to the ground Friday, killing all four people on board in a plunge that viewers saw as a jumble of spinning, broken images.
Both helicopters went down in a park in central Phoenix and caught fire. No one on the ground was hurt.
TV viewers did not actually witness the accident because cameras aboard both aircraft were pointed at the ground. But they saw video from one of the helicopters break up and begin to spin before the station abruptly switched to the studio.
Television station KNXV reported that it operated one of the choppers. The other was from KTVK. A pilot and photographer aboard each chopper were killed.
KNXV reporter Craig Smith, who was among the dead, was reporting live as police chased a man driving a flatbed truck who had fled a traffic stop. The man was driving erratically, hitting several cars and driving on the sidewalk at times.
Police had blown the truck's tires, and the man eventually parked it, then carjacked a pickup truck nearby.
Just before the picture broke up, Smith said, "Oh geez!"
The station then switched to the studio and briefly showed regular programming, a soap opera, before announcing that the helicopter had crashed.
The man fleeing from police was later taken into custody by a SWAT team after barricading himself inside a house, police said. Police Chief Jack Harris suggested he could be charged in connection with the collision.
"I believe you will want to talk to investigators, but I think he will be held responsible for any of the deaths from this tragedy," Harris told reporters at the scene. He did not elaborate.
A Federal Aviation Administration investigator was on the scene Friday and National Transportation Safety Board investigators were expected to come in today, Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Joel Tranter said.
Killed on board the KTVK chopper were pilot Scott Bowerbank and photographer Jim Cox, the station reported. Smith and photographer Rick Krolak were aboard the KNXV aircraft, that station said.