Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jerry Sims' "Follow A Car" Follow-Up

Bud....not Christmas, but a followup to the David B. "Follow a Car" story from a few years before.

In the beginning KAAY had the New Cruiser. It was a white station wagon with a red KAAY on the roof, and was equipped with what was probably the same phone/radio arrangement that David B. refered to using a few years later. It had police scanners and was used mostly by the news crew ( which included George J. Jennings and Ron Owens (Walt Sadler) during my stay at the station). We all, from time to time, would use it to follow cars doing the "Follow The Car-Win Cash" promotion. Even George Jennings would do one on occasion when he took the car home. And Pat Walsh too sometimes. One morning I was "following" before my mid-day shift, when a good sized news story broke.

A local radio station KMYO "Cameo" did a morning and afternoon traffic report from a helicopter each weekday. This particular morning the police scanners announced that there were reports that the helicopter had gone over a part of Little Rock "very low and making sounds as if it was in trouble". The police department was doing a search to check out the reports. KMYO had lost contact with the chopper too. I called in a report to KAAY, and joined in the search. It was believed that the chopper had gone down somewhere near the Arkansas River, possibly landing or crashing in the river or on a sandbar. The search went on for about an hour, as I remember. The chopper had crashed in a wooded ravine between Cantrel Hill and a green of the Little Rock Country Club. I arrived and hiked down the hill from the Country Club with the police. We found the helicopter upside down, with the pilot and reporter still strapped in their seats. Neither had survived. I remember Cameo G.M. Cliff Ford arriving soon as well. The same station had experienced another helicopter accident ( earlier I believe). As their reporter went to board for his traffic duties, and walked into the spinning rear blade. It was said that he was looking over his shoulder waving to his wife He also died. Cameo ended the helicopter reports after the second accident. One good Cameo memory for me: During a short period of time I worked at KMYO, which gave me a chance to work with Jim Hankins, the first Program Director at KAAY. He was also the first Michael McCormick at KAAY. He went to KMYO from KAAY. I was happy to work with him and see some of the originality that he had used at KAAY that made those early years so successful. But wait......Let's credit A.J. while we are at it. He hired me and was also responsible for much of the stations early fun/success.

I suppose the Fun Mobile and other such things replaced the Mobile News Cruiser. We used it for news and whatever else we wanted such as Toys for Tots. It was well known and highly visible around town. I wish I owned it today.

Jerry Sims....The Middle.....Sonny Martin

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