Sad to hear about the passing of veteran newsman Hal Brown. I received this message from Mark Jeannette in my email. I wanted to share it. Thanks Mark.
“We heard this huge explosion,” says Hal Brown, the announcer on KSDO’s morning news program. “I ran to part the curtains, and I caught a glint of falling metal out of the corner of my eye. Seconds later, we heard this tremendous explosion. Somehow, I knew there had to have been a midair collision. I interrupted CBS News to say there was a tremendous explosion in the North Park area. I said something like it was a midair collision and we’d get back with more details. That report hit the airwaves about 30 seconds after the crash.”
KSDO’s news director, Joe Gillespie, did something he knows is against unwritten broadcasting rules: He left his on-air post. “I heard the crash, and next thing I know, I’m looking for the keys to a station car,” he says. “I knew I had to get to the scene, and I knew the car had a radio. Before I delegated anything, I realized that I could probably do it faster myself. [Gillespie was the only one who knew where the car that had the transmitting radio was parked, and he had the keys in his possession already.] I knew we had to get something on the air. That was my goal. I didn’t want to be there just for the sake of being first.”
Gillespie believes he was at the crash site at Dwight and Boundary—tapes have him calling it Dwight and Boulevard—at the west side of the devastation. Channel 39 was at the east end. Neither Gillespie nor Britton remembers seeing the other. “My main focus was to see what was going on, then run back to the car radio to file my dispatch,” says Gillespie. By the time he reached the area of the crash, Gillespie had a live feed back to Brown, who was now running solo at the microphone, with sportscaster John DeMott working the phones.
Remarkably, Brown and DeMott were able to get San Diego Airport manager Maurice “Bud” McDonald on the phone to confirm that a PSA jet had crashed on approach to Lindbergh Field. Soon, CBS News was carrying KSDO’s reports live to the nation and the world.