Monday, July 30, 2007

Copters collide

I meant to write about this the day it happened, but Blogger, in all it's infinite wisdom, chose that day to lock me out of my own blog. Apparently, my site had somehow been tagged as a Spam blog by Blogger's spam-sniffing robots. Obviously, there must be some bugs in their robots, which Blogger eventually sorted out. But it's still a little irritating. After all, I pay good money for this site. Oh, wait ... it's free. Well, I can still bitch if I want to.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about. I'm here to try and sort out something much more important, much more surreal. Something that I still haven't quite sorted out yet. Some of you may or may not have heard about the fatal collision of 2 news helicopters in downtown Phoenix this last Friday. From every report that I've heard, it's the first ever collision of news helicopters. There have been a handful of single aircraft crashes, but none involving two.

It's obviously a tragic accident, but tragic accidents happen all the time. Deaths like these, especially under strange circumstances, involving radio or TV personalities, and witnessed by a lot of people, bring about even a greater focus. A lot of people feel they "know" the people involved and therefore are affected more. But, still, that's not what I'm here to talk about.

This accident is still on my mind because it's not some abstraction. It's not just something that I heard about on the news. I was in downtown Phoenix that day. And if the events involving me had turned out differently, the accident may never have happened.

It's Friday afternoon, a little after noon, and I'm heading to my last client, a single lawyer firm at Thomas & Central. I'm heading down 7th Street, absently planning out the weekend in my head, without any big concerns. I'm in the far right hand lane, about a mile from my client. Checking my rear-view mirror, I see a service truck of some kind coming up fast and, I fear, in danger of rear-ending me. I'm bracing for the collision, but at the last moment he veers into the passing lane. But just barely. He does this at the last moment, nearly clipping me, and passing me by the narrowest of margins (about a foot). But that's not even the weirdest part. As he passes, I notice sparks flying up from the side of the truck. As he makes it past me, the truck, a construction or pest control truck of some kind (with a tank in the back), is driving on rims. I've seen people do this before, but they are usually driving very slowly, have only one tire on rims, and they are just trying to make it to a service station. This guy was going 50 mph and swerving madly. Shortly after he passes me, he immediately take a turn on Indian School Rd, towards downtown and continues driving fast. I look in my rear-view again, because even as thick as I am sometimes, I was beginning to think something was up. Sure enough, I saw about a dozen police cruisers in a cautious pursuit.

I continue south on 7th Street, anxious to stay as far away from that guy as possible. But I still don't think a lot about it. Probably some teenager on a joy-ride in a stolen work vehicle. I turn on Thomas (a mile south of Indian School) and head towards Central. I go to my client, on the 11th floor, and do my work. While there, I hear some fire engines and more police cars below and comment to my client about the weird episode that I'd had. We chuckle about it and don't think much more about it.

I get in my car. I'm done with clients, ready to go home and relax. I turn on the radio, which happens to be on our local NPR station. The newscasters are frantically discussing the events of about a half an hour ago, a mid-air collision of 2 news helicopters in downtown Phoenix. The news helicopters were covering a police chase of a stolen construction truck (with a tank in back) driving on it's rims. At this point, I almost pull over to the side of the road to throw up. I'm literally numb.

After watching a lot of coverage, reading a lot of articles and getting details of the whole thing, I am able to gather that within a minute of passing me, the guy ditches the service truck, jacks another vehicle and right at this time, the helicopters collide over Steele Park. I'm a mile south at that time, with several skyscrapers in between me and the collision and with me with music blaring in my truck, I don't hear the noise of the it. At my client, no one was listening to the radio, so everyone there is blissfully unaware.

Over the last few days, I keep going through scenarios in my head. I actually find myself wishing that the guy had hit me. It would have been a glancing collision. I think I would have been OK, but it would probably have stopped him so that the police could apprehend him. No long chase. No mid-air collision. Or maybe it would have still happened. It can screw with your head thinking about causality and fate (which I don't believe in) in a Sliding Doors sort of way. Regardless, I'm sick and sorry and confused at the same time.

I'm not even going to get into the justifiable questions of why society and news feel they have to see these police chases on TV. That's a question for a different time. It doesn't give comfort to the families of the men who died.

Here are a couple of videos from the helicopters. While they don't show the collision, they are still grisly. The first is from 15 (one of the copters in the collision). The truck you see at the beginning of the video is the one that nearly hit me.

News 15

The second is from 10, I believe, one of the copters not involved directly, but who is immensely affected by the collision. It is hard to listen to.

News 10

I'm pretty sure that the news copters were following the chase even before he went into the residential area and that there is footage of the guy passing me, but I have yet to find it.

I wouldn't wish the above situation on anyone, but I know some of you have had close brushes like this. It's sad that it takes something like this to make one appreciate that every tragic death is important. Everyone that dies has a family and friends that grieve. No deaths are unimportant.


shrimplate said...

It isn't "Indian School Park" anymore; instead, it's "the park where those helicopters crashed."

Sadie Lou said...


Am kinda speechless but I want to say something. First, I'm thanking God that I didn't come to your blog to discover that something bad had happened to you. And this also gives me the opportnity to say that if something should ever happen to any of us in our little blog circle--someone should get on our blogs to let the others know. I would hate it if something happened to a blog friend and I was unable to pray.

Second, I'm glad I was moved to come here tonight instead of working on my Etsy Shop like I normally do. If I'm not fine tuning the shop--I'm crafting but tonight I wanted to say hi to friends.

So, Hi Lance. I'm glad you're okay. Don't spend too much time wondering what if--God played it out how He wanted it to be played out and the lives lost might be lives that are lost to us, but will serve a greater purpose--I just hope you'll learn of what that purpose was, someday.

dbackdad said...

Thanks Sadie. It means a lot.

I think I'll take a few minutes to show my wife how to log in and post on my blog.

Laura said...

That is really quite amazing. I can't say I remember having any close calls of this nature. It's an unfortunate accident.

Great White Bear, said...

As a semi driver, I have had any number of those wierd experiences. But as for your wishing the guy had hit you, none of the events of the day were your responsibility. And your wife could have been the widow and your kids fatherless.

So just be thankful that fate was kind to you, and give your wife and kids an extra big hug and kiss tonight!

Now on a different subject....

I have been waiting patiently for your reviews of the Simpsons, Live Free or Die Hard, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and Hairspray. All of which I enjoyed very much, especially Hairspray.

I should also apologize to you and others for "lurking". just haven't had a lot ot say!

dbackdad said...

GWB, lurk away. We'd just glad to have you.

I'm looking to see the Simpson's, Ratatouille (I think I mangled the spelling), Die Hard, Bourne, Transformers, Talk to Me, and Rescue Dawn all very soon. I'll probably catch a few of them this weekend. I've already seen Harry Potter (and liked it). Once I've knocked a few more of them off my list, I'll do some reviews.

I'm sure you are right about last Friday's events. But, just to be on the safe side, I'm going to amp up my tragedy radar for a bit. I swear I was nowhere near Minneapolis and I-35 today.

Great White Bear, said...

Of course, you realize this may force me to write a review of Hairspray, which you really must see. Both my daughter and i thought it much better than the original.

Donna said...

Yikes, what a surreal and crazy story. Don't beat yourself up over the what-ifs though. What if the asshat hadn't stolen the truck in the first place? The asshat could maybe use a little self-flagellation, but you surely don't. Glad you are ok and safe, and you're right, society is so numb now to this kind of thing that it takes tragedy of epic proportion or circumstance to make people take notice. Really sad.