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Meteorologists mourn colleague killed in North Carolina helicopter crash

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a helicopter crash along Interstate 77 in Charlotte (Alex Slitz/The Charlotte Observer/AP)

A broadcast meteorologist and a pilot for a local CBS affiliate were killed when a news helicopter crashed in North Carolina Tuesday afternoon, shocking members of the news station and its community.

The station, Charlotte-based WBTV, identified the two killed in the crash as 44-year-old meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag, 57.

“The WBTV family is grieving a terrible loss,” the station said in a statement.

Speaking about the crash on air Tuesday, the station’s chief meteorologist said he was “literally in shock.” “I’ve been here almost 30 years, and I’ve never had a day at this station like this before. It’s tough.”

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. In a news briefing Tuesday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings said it appeared as though the pilot made “diversionary moves to avoid traffic.” The helicopter crashed alongside a Charlotte-area interstate.

“To me it looks like a heroic incident where the pilot tried to avoid injuring anyone else and putting anyone else in danger,” Jennings said. “If that is truly the case, then that pilot is a hero in my eyes.”

Myers joined the WBTV weather department three years ago — it was the same station the “hometown boy” watched as a child, the station said. Myers married his childhood friend, Jillian, and they had four children, according to the station.

In a statement released by the family, according to WBTV, they said Myers “taught us all that the most important thing in life is your relationship with God and your relationships with others. His love for his family was exemplary.”

Friends and colleagues said he was devoted to his faith and his family. “It’s just something that stuck with you from the moment you met him,” Brad Panovich, chief meteorologist at WCNC Charlotte, told The Washington Post.

Just 24 hours before his death, Myers’s radiant smile beamed as he reported on cool temperatures from a local ice rink. Bundled in his blue WBTV jacket, Myers twirled in skates to remind local viewers that the chilly temperatures could be festive.

“Nothing about Jason was anything but happy,” colleague Molly Grantham said while anchoring a WBTV broadcast Tuesday. “You never met anyone who was as positive and happy as him.”

Many in the media and meteorology community shared their grief in posts on social media after the crash.

“Jason was a fantastic role model and a genuinely nice guy,” Justin Roth, a former meteorologist, wrote, adding: “It hurts me to think about his wife and family and what they are going through. Jason always put family first even going to his children’s games between newscasts.”

Other colleagues recounted Myers’s tireless work ethic, which featured a “handy dandy clipboard” that he carried with him.

“Today is tragic and feels unreal. My WBTV family is heartbroken,” tweeted Jason Huber, a digital content producer for the station. “Just still can’t believe this is real.”

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