Jane Dornacker

By Clive Python | 14jammar

Born in 1947, Jane Dornacker made a name for herself as a musician, actress, comedian and of cause, a traffic reporter.

Despite her life career, she is best known for her death that occurred on the 22nd of October 1986 where she was giving one of the station's N-Copter (pictured, click to enlarge) traffic reports during the Joey Reynolds Show on WNBC Radio in New York City. At 4:44 P.M., the Enstrom F-28 helicopter she was aboard plunged into the Hudson River from an altitude of roughly 23 m.

One day after the crash, the New York Times reported that;

Two witnesses to the crash, Steve Leibowitz and his sister, Sandy Corbet, said the helicopter approached the shoreline from the west. The two were riding bicycles on a sidewalk that parallels the West Side Highway. 'Like a Nose Dive'

At first, the aircraft hovered above the highway, they said. Then ''his engine stopped,'' Ms. Corbet said. ''He went down real fast. It wasn't like a nose dive or a tail dive. The blade stopped and it went down horizontally.'' The tail knocked a hole in a fence at the water's edge when the body of the craft hit the river.

When the aircraft hit the surface, Mr. Leibowitz said, ''there was a mechanical noise like a grinding.'' The craft's floats apparently broke off at impact.

Both herself and the pilot were trapped for nearly 10-15 minutes before help arrived. Dornacker died on her way to Saint Vincent's Catholic Medical Center. Pilot Bill Pate, the only other occupant, was severely injured but survived.

Joey Reynolds: Okay, here's Jane Dornacker now in the N-Copter.

[synthesized NBC chime]

Jane Dornacker: Thank you very much, Joey. There was indeed an accident southbound on the Major Deegan at the Mosholu Parkway, an accident, a serious accident involving a tractor trailer and a car. It has been pushed off to the shoulder, but now watch out there now, because another flatbed truck is going to have to come to clear it, so yield right-of-way. Northbound on the BQE, we've spotted that disabled vehicle in the right-hand lane before the Kosciuszko, not causing much of a backup, but further northbound there on the BQE, traffic is very heavy, past the Kosciuszko all the way over to the LIE. The outbound Holland Tunnel extra-heavy for you right now; earlier there was a car fire at Hudson and Canal Street. It has been cleared out, except heading to New Jersey, the outbound Lincoln Tunnel looks a lot better for you. In New Jersey [gasp] ....

[sound in background of helicopter engine racing, then slowing down]

Jane Dornacker (now screaming): Hit the water! Hit the water! Hit the water!

[signal from helicopter cuts out]

[there is dead air for five seconds]

Joey Reynolds: Okay, we're going to play some, uh, some music here, I think.

[background voice in studio says, "Yeah, mm-hm."]

Joey Reynolds: And find out what's going on with the helicopter, because something happened there.

[while Reynolds continues, background voice in studio says, "Come in, N-Copter."]

Joey Reynolds: It's, uh, quarter of five, 16 'til five on WNBC on the Joey Reynolds Show.

[music starts up]

Joey Reynolds (over music): We're taking an N-Copter report from Jane Dornacker. [pause] Let's check in, and see how they're doing there, and then we'll come right back at you.

["Hip To Be Square", by Huey Lewis & The News starts to play]

Joey Reynolds (as song ends): I hope nothing happened with Jane. We had, uh, a helicopter report, from the N-Copter. Of course, you know, once before, we had this happen, a few months ago, she went down in the, uh, in the drink. Not she, I mean, she has a, uh, pilot. Jane is, uh, ...

[other voice in studio says, "...well, until we find out what's going on, we'll just ..."]

Joey Reynolds: ...Jane was up there just now giving us a report, and [sounding more upbeat] sometimes it just gets cut off, too, you know. It's just an electronic thing. But this time she said, uh, "Hit the water," or something like that. So we're going to find out what's going on there, so stay tuned. We hope nothing ... [pause] ...say a little prayer, hope nothing's, nothing's wrong. That's really a ... [deep breath]...that's a hard, hard job.

After her death she was cremated, her ashes were given to family or friend. Her ashes were then returned to her birthplace in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Jane Dornacker's then 16-year-old daughter Naomi, whose father died shortly before Jane's death received $325,000 in a settlement with the owner of the helicopter.

In an investigation into the crash, the NTSB found that the sprag clutch that was installed in the helicopter which WNBC Radio had leased was a military surplus part not designed for use in a civilian aircraft and that the part had not been adequately lubricated. It led to a mid-air seizure of the main rotor blades.


Photo of N-Copter
https://web.archive.org/web/20070314232233im_/http://www.helispot.com/images/03309.jpg [archive.is]

Info on Dornacker
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Dornacker [Internet Archive, archive.is]

New York Times - 23/10/86 [Note: They got her age wrong]
http://www.nytimes.com/1986/10/23/nyregion/traffic-copter-crash-in-hudson-kills-reporter.html [Internet Archive, archive.is]

https://web.archive.org/web/20081201005504/http://www.math.uiuc.edu/~jbenda2/jebhp9/useless/dornacker.html [archive.is]

Find A Grave on Jane Dornacker
https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=18694933 [Internet Archive, archive.is]

BestGore on Jane Dornacker
http://www.bestgore.com/road-accidents/jane-dornacker-death-audio-wnbc-traffic-helicopter-crash/ [Internet Archive, archive.is]

Written by Clive "James" Python, 21/02/17.