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THE NATION

TV Has 'Surreal' Moment

June 01, 2002|GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Television newsman Rick Jacobs doesn't like to use cliches, but all he could think was "surreal movie" as he watched the live feed of an Air Force Reserve helicopter smashing into Mt. Hood during a dramatic rescue attempt Thursday.

Jacobs, assistant news director at the KGW-TV newsroom in Portland, Ore., was in the newsroom as the helicopter hit the icy summit and rolled 1,000 feet down the mountain, flinging several of the crew into the snow. The scene went live to thousands of local viewers and later was seen by millions nationwide.

"It was absolutely surreal and happened so fast we didn't really have time to react," Jacobs said Friday. The crash happened as the helicopter was attempting to rescue six climbers who had fallen into a crevasse on the mountain. Three other climbers in the group were killed in the fall.

The helicopter--a 20,000-pound Pave Hawk trying to pick up the injured climbers--appeared to lose lift in the thin mountain air.

As Jacobs and the others watched, KGW reporter Pat Dooris was aboard the station's helicopter and reporting live: "Oh, fellas, oh Lord." he said. "I wish this were just a movie."

Back in the newsroom "it was a whole lot like 9/11," Jacobs said. "It happened slowly. There were all these gasps when it hit, then we all knew that something horrible was happening. There were all these bodies all over the place."

Dooris had been providing live coverage for more than two hours when the accident happened. His helicopter was three miles away because of safety restrictions. "I just had this feeling of horror," he said. "I really thought those guys were going to die."

Jacobs said it is station policy not to show violent live footage, but it did not have time to cut away from the crash. KGW refrained from airing replays until it was confirmed that none of the helicopter's occupants had been killed. Three of the six crew members were hurt, but none seriously.

"We just thought it was unbelievable that everyone had survived," Jacobs said.

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