A chartered helicopter carrying an ABC News crew to cover a meatpackers' strike at Geo. A. Hormel & Co. in Austin about 25 miles southeast of here crashed in a field in dense fog and burned before dawn yesterday, killing the reporter, producer and pilot aboard, officials said.

An ABC News spokesman identified the victims as correspondent Joe Spencer, 31, and producer Mark McDonough, 30, both based in Chicago. The pilot was Curtis Mark Haugen, 35, of Marine-on-St. Croix, Minn., according to Odyssey Helicopter Service Inc. of White Bear Lake, Minn.

ABC News President Roone Arledge described Spencer and McDonough as "young and talented journalists who lost their lives doing their work" and said, "All who knew them, both professional and personally, had great affection and respect for the way they lived and what they gave to their profession."

At the plant, national guardsmen with billy clubs and riot gear stood shoulder to shoulder and closed the plant to guard against violence hours after the company asked workers not to cross picket lines formed by hundreds of strikers.

The decision to close was cheered by strikers, who earlier lined the street, taunting and mimicking about 500 guardsmen. Later, officials ordered another 300 guardsmen to the scene, and plant officials announced plans to reopen today.

At a Hormel plant in Ottumwa, Iowa, nearly all of 850 union workers refused to cross a picket line of Austin strikers.