CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Many are calling the pilot of a deadly WBTV helicopter crash a hero after he avoided one of the busiest interstates in Charlotte.

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Federal investigators are now working to determine what caused the fatal helicopter crash on Tuesday. In a release, they told Queen City News that pilot Chip Tayag did not make any distress calls.

However, a complete investigation will take weeks, months, if not years, before authorities determine what went wrong.

Photos: Meteorologist Jason Myers and Pilot Chip Tayag

“I just remember seeing the metal crushing down as it landed; I was terrified. I remember thinking, ‘Please let this be a drone, please let it be a drone,’” Tiara Hollifield said.

It’s something Hollifield said she’ll never forget. She was driving on Interstate-77 when she saw the helicopter. All the police cars, the empty interstate, and a helicopter crumpled on the side of the road. The crash killed two news station employees, Tayag and meteorologist Jason Myers.

“I remember immediately just smelling electrical burn more than anything, no gas, no fuel, just pure electrical burning smell,” said Tiara.

Experts said the Robinson R44 helicopter is a small and standard aircraft used all over the country.

One pilot and tour operator, Stephen Hatzis, said he’s had a lot of time in that aircraft.

“Some people say the Robinsons always go down, but the fact of the matter is, Robinsons are one of the most popular aircraft out there, and there’s a lot of them out there,” Hatzis said.

The R44 does have a history of fatal crashes. There have been 72 since 1993, according to the NTSB database. Investigators will use information from previous crashes to determine what went wrong on Tuesday.

“They’re going to test a lot of things; they’re actually pretty good at figuring out what possibly could have gone wrong,” Hatzis said.

There will be plenty of data to look at, but one thing has been clear from the start.

“I don’t foresee a pilot error here; I think he did a fantastic job, all things considered, there was loss of life, but it could have been a lot worse,” Hatzis said.


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Tayag logged years of flights with WBTV. He made several each month, and many are thankful for what he did on his final flight.

“So, that was – incredibly heroic of him. That was, for it to be one of his final moments, that was incredibly heroic,” Hollifield said.