Steve Douglas, who received a local Emmy award Saturday night for his work as host of WDVM-TV's "Saturday Magazine," was killed yesterday in a gliding accident while filming a segment for a forthcoming show.
Douglas, 41, whose real name was Ronald Statzer, fell 1,000 feet after a wing of the ultra-light craft folded during descent, according to Maryland State Police. Douglas died immediately, police said. The glider crashed in a wooded area of Prince George's County about four miles east of the Capital Centre.
"He was out there with a crew and a producer filming a segment for an upcoming show," said Channel 9 station manager Ron Townsend. "He had flown these things before and knew what he was doing. We don't know what happened.
"We're all still in shock. Steve was a class guy, a good newsman and a friend. We're really going to miss him."
Townsend said that although he did not know who would replace Douglas on the 90-minute public-affairs program, the show, which made its debut last September, would continue on the air uninterrupted.
According to police, yesterday morning Douglas was flying the motorized glider, which has a wingspan of about 25 feet and resembles a large kite when viewed from the ground, at about 2,000 feet when he began to descend rapidly. Observers on the ground reported that Douglas appeared to be having trouble controlling the glider. At about 900 feet, police said, one of the wings folded and the glider, which Douglas had been flying over an open field, shot into an adjacent wooded area.
"After the wing folded he was separated from the craft and fell," said state police Lt. Charles Hutchins.
Douglas was declared dead at the scene and his body was taken to the state medical examiner's office in Baltimore.
The cause of the crash could not be determined immediately, but Hutchins said, "It appears as though the craft was being operated beyond its capabilities."
An ultra-light glider is larger and more sophisticated than a hang glider, although Federal Aviation Administration officials do not require it or a pilot to be licensed since it is considered a foot-propelled aircraft. Douglas had flown ultra-lights before and had flown over the same field on Saturday before attending the Emmy awards dinner. The subject of the film segment was to be recreational use of ultra-light gliders.
Douglas was born in southwestern Virginia and attended Eastern Kentucky University, majoring in speech and drama. He began his career as news director at a Louisville radio station before moving to Cincinnati where he worked for about 15 years, first in radio, then as a television anchor at a local station until 1979. He became news director at a Cincinnati radio station in 1979 and taught a television news class at the University of Cincinnati. He came to Channel 9 last September as host of the new magazine show.
At Saturday night's awards ceremony at the Wax Museum, Douglas and his show both won awards for local public-affairs programming.
"It's just a tragedy for all of us," Townsend said. "Saturday night was a very happy night for Steve. Then this."