NTSB releases report on 2007 collision of Ch. 3, 15 helicopters

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PHOENIX -- Safety investigators say the pilots of two Phoenix news helicopters had so many distractions they lost track of each other, resulting in a midair crash that killed four.

Distractions contributed to crash
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National Transportation Safety Board investigators said Wednesday the pilots in the July 2007 crash drifted too close together because they were focused on watching a police car chase and reporting the event for their stations.

The pilots were also listening to police radios, coordinating coverage with news producers, talking with photographers on board, talking to other helicopter pilots by radio and trying to visually keep track of other helicopters nearby.

The board is meeting to determine the probable cause of the crash and make safety recommendations, including the possible separation of flying and reporting duties.

The crash, which happened in July 2007, killed four people -- 3TV pilot Scott Bowerbank and photographer Jim Cox, and pilot Craig Smith and photographer Rick Krolak from Channel 15.

Since the 2007 crash, 3TV has added a co-pilot to NewsChopper 3 when Bruce Haffner is reporting live on TV. This allows Bruce to focus on his live news reporting while the co-pilot focuses on flying NewsChopper 3.