Former ABC11 photographer honored
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WTVD) -- December 7, 1991 was the darkest day in the history of ABC11. The crash of our station's helicopter stole the lives of three colleagues. Only sports reporter Tony Debo was thankfully spared. It was the last assignment for pilot Jim Lane, engineer Rick Sherrill and photojournalist Bart Smith.
Monday, more than two decades after the crash, Bart's name was added to the list of thousands of journalists killed on the job. The names and pictures are enshrined in one of the most unique museums in a town filled with them - the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
The majority of those added to the rolls Monday died in 2012. But each year, a few who had gone unrecognized in the years before are also honored.
Bart and the crew were covering a high school state championship game in Wilmington and were on their way home when they suddenly plunged from the sky into a field in southeastern Wake County.
Among those at Monday's ceremony was Bart's mother who came from his hometown of Bristol, Tennessee for the ceremony.
"It is amazing how quickly the time is flown, but yet how it seems like it could have been yesterday since we've seen him," said Mary Lou Smith.
Also attending was Karen Koutsky - a former ABC11 assignment editor who was engaged to the 28 year old.
"He did a lot in those 28 years, had a lot of fun, covered the news, loved journalism more than anything else, and loved what he was doing, where he was going, and it did not matter the assignment," she said.
Speaking at Monday's ceremony was network correspondent Richard Engel, who knows a little something about the inherent dangers of news coverage. He was kidnapped last year in Syria and held hostage for five days.
"They died in their element - not at a desk behind a computer - they died in the line of duty," he offered.
Also attending Monday's ceremony was ABC11 reporter Ed Crump.
"Journalism is all about objectivity. But, I must confess, I have little objectivity when it comes to Bart Smith. He wasn't just a colleague - he was one of my best friends. And to see his picture here today touches my heart," he said.
Learn more about the Newseum at its website: http://www.newseum.org
A scholarship to promote diversity at the UNC School of Journalism honors the memory of the three men.
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