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School Mourns Deaths of Four Killed in News Copter Crash

July 29, 2007

Statement from Dean Christopher Callahan of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication following the news helicopter crash in Phoenix on July 27 that claimed four lives:

The faculty, staff and students of the Cronkite School join our friends and colleagues at Channel 3 and Channel 15 in mourning Friday’s tragic loss of four outstanding and dedicated news professionals. We all grieve the deaths of Scott Bowerbank, Jim Cox, Rick Krolak and Craig Smith – killed in the line of duty – and send our deepest condolences to their families, friends and newsroom colleagues. This is an extraordinarily sad and painful time for the journalism community and our entire region.

All four were remembered by friends and colleagues at the Cronkite School.

Jim Cox, a photojournalist for Channel 3, was a 1993 Cronkite graduate. Mary Cook was his academic adviser during his Cronkite years.

“Jim was never afraid to take on the tough assignments, whether it was inside the classroom or outside the classroom,” Cook told The Arizona Republic. “He really cared about people, and he took great pride in his work.”

He was a key member of “Southwinds,” the school’s student-produced TV newscast at the time. “He was among the best I’ve ever had the opportunity to teach,” said Professor Donald Godfrey.

Mark Lodato, professor of practice and the Cronkite School’s TV news director, said as a reporter at KNXV and later KPHO, he often competed against Cox. “He was a wonderful man and fantastic photographer. He always brought a great attitude and creative eye to the job.”

Sue Green, professor of practice and director of the TV division of Cronkite News Service, until last year was managing editor at ABC15, where she worked closely with both Craig Smith and Rick Krolak.

“Craig was the ultimate professional, always making sure that mechanically the helicopter was in good shape, and very proud of being the station pilot,” Green said. “He was so good at telling a story. I remember the first time I saw his resume tape before we hired him. He was coving a fire in Detroit. He was amazing at being able to pull you into the story. He wasn’t just describing the pictures; he was actually helping you to feel the heat of the flames. It's a skill that not everyone has.”

Green also remembered Rick Krolak and his passion for covering news from above.

“He loved spending time in the chopper. It was tough to get him back in a car to cover news, because he was so used to covering stories from above. And he was good, very good, at getting great pictures. It was tough for me hearing that it was Rick because we used to have these conversations about his retiring and whether or not Rick was ready. He loved flying and shooting.”

“I used to be the one who had to give approval for sending up the helicopter, and you take it for granted that the helicopter will come back home.”

Lodato partnered with Channel 3’s Scott Bowerbank when both were at ABC15 to air the station’s first helicopter live shot. Lodato recalled being a bit nervous when he took his first helicopter flight. Bowerbank was at the controls. “Scott made me feel safe and at ease, as he would time and again when we would travel to develop stories across much of Arizona. Soon I was volunteering for chopper duty, enjoying a new way of telling stories and bringing important news to Valley viewers.”

The Cronkite School will look for an appropriate way to remember these four news professionals.