10 years later: What's changed since Phoenix TV chopper crash?

Posted at 4:58 AM, Jul 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-27 22:08:26-04

It’s been a decade since Phoenix lost four journalists while they were covering the news.

On July 27, 2007, the helicopters from ABC15 and 3TV collided while reporting above a police chase in central Phoenix.

At 12:46 p.m. that day, both helicopters went down in Steele Indian School Park, killing ABC15’s Craig Smith and Rick Krolak, and 3TV’s Scott Bowerbank and Jim Cox.

In the years since that day, covering the news has changed in Phoenix – and many of those changes are a direct result of what happened on July 27.

“Instead of all stacking up the same altitude, [we now] try to stack 500 to 1,000 feet of separation between aircraft," said pilot Steve Watkins, who flies the helicopter now shared by ABC15, FOX10 and 12News.

While there were five TV news helicopters flying above Phoenix in 2007, the Phoenix TV stations now share just two helicopters.

Pilots also no longer report the news while flying the aircraft, and new technology like long-range camera lenses has meant the helicopters can stay at safer distances when covering stories.

“That allows us sometimes to stay far back, up to a mile, even a mile and a half at times, from the actual scene itself,” said another one of the TV helicopter pilots, Troy Barrett.

They are moves meant not only to ensure safety in the skies, but also to honor those lost by making sure it doesn’t happen again.