Good Grief! I take a little time away from shooting regular assignments and spot news, and the first day back to regular work the whole world falls apart. Yesterday morning I was heading out to get a few photos done for our annual Progress edition and as I was walking out to the car when my police scanner starts to squawk. The dispatch calls a structure fire at an apartment complex on the far side of town. I thought, "I haven't gone on a spot news run in a while, what the heck." As I'm driving down Bryant Boulevard I can start to see smoke on the horizon. Most of the time, if the fire is not that serious, you don't see anything. But I was seeing some smoke so there was definitely something going on. Add in the radio banter between the police and firefighters already on scene and the upgrade to two-alarms, and my heart starts racing.
I get to the apartments, park in back and make my way to the fire. Everyone was evacuated so there were no injuries, but two of the apartments suffered some serious damage. The fire spread to the attic and there are no fire breaks in the roof, so the fire was able to move freely. I didn't get to shoot any flames, but I did get a picture of firefighters venting the roof to let the fire escape.
All was well for the rest of the day until about 4:30 pm, just 30 minutes away from quitting time, and the police scanner heats up again, this time with a rollover and possible entrapment of a two-vehicle crash. This is just about the time when most of the daily crashes happen. Jen Rios, the cops/courts reporter, and I look at each other and nod, knowing we are going to have to roll on this. We jump in my car and go north to 17th Street where the two cars collided. When we arrive we can see one car came to rest on it's top and the other just had the roof cut off by firefighters so they could get to the driver and passenger.
Shooting a spot news scene can be touchy. You want to shoot everything you see, but at the same time you want to be respectful of the person that is going through this traumatic time and stay out of the way of emergency personnel. You also have to take into account that there my be other family members present, so being aware of how they are reacting to the scene is crucial as well. You never know if there are going to get upset with you taking pictures and decide to come at you. Fortunately, I've never been in that situation.
All three people involved in the crash were taken to the hospital and as far as I know, were conscious and breathing when they left.
So Jen and I get back the office, she writes a brief about the crash, I put a photo in the system and all is right with the world. I'm in the process of packing up my things to head out when... yep, you guessed it, the police scanner goes off again. This time dispatch calls for a plane crash at the KOA campgrounds near Lake Nasworthy on the southwest side of town. Crap. I immediately ducked down behind my computer screen knowing full well that everyone in the newsroom heard that call. I slowly peered over the top of the cubicle to see where Jen was and I found her sitting at her desk, arms down at her sides and head tilted up with her eyes closed. She slowly spun around and again, we looked at each other, nodded and headed for the door. While driving to the crash we each called our respective dinner dates for the evening telling them we would be late.
We rolled up on the scene at the KOA and found that initial rush of activity had already run its course and now emergency personnel were in question-and-answer mode. Everything looked normal except for the Piper Cherokee B aircraft casually resting against one of the cabins. We were told that both the pilot and passenger were fine and didn't need to go to the hospital. Apparently what happened was the aircraft was lining up to perform touch-and-go maneuvers at San Angelo Regional Airport and lost power on approach. The pilot dropped the aircraft into the campground, was doing just fine until the right wing was sheered off by a mesquite tree, veered to the right and came to rest against a cabin. It was a miracle no one was hurt. Jen and I stayed to get some information from the DPS officer in charge of the investigation and headed back to the office. We turned off the scanners when we got back in the car.