Friends, former colleagues remember 2 crew members killed in Chopper 6 crash

The crew members have been identified as Monroe Smith of Glenside, Pa. and Christopher Dougherty of Oreland, Pa.

Thursday, December 21, 2023
Action News remembers pilot, photographer killed in deadly Chopper 6 crash
The crew members have been identified as Monroe Smith of Glenside, Pa. and Christopher Dougherty of Oreland, Pa.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Devastation and heartbreak have been felt amongst the entire Action News team and beyond following the loss of photographer Christopher Dougherty and pilot Monroe Smith, who were both killed in Tuesday night's deadly Chopper 6 crash.

The crew members have a long history with our station. Smith has been part of the Action News team through U.S. Helicopters for over 20 years and Dougherty has been part of the crew for 18 years.

During a time of heartache, we have to try and remember the good and look back at some of the memories made along the way.

Smith, 67, of Glenside, Pa. and Dougherty, 45, of Oreland, Pa., were in Chopper 6 when it went down in Washington Township, New Jersey just after 8 p.m. They were returning from an assignment at the Jersey Shore.

Reporter Maggie Kent spoke with colleagues of the crew members at Northeast Philadelphia Airport, where the chopper was based.

"They are described as the best guys that you would want to know, on the job for decades," she said. "They are highly skilled in what they do. They loved their craft."

Pete Kane, a retired journalist, was friends with Smith.

"I got worried so I made another phone call and when I made that phone call, they were all in tears," Kane said. "We had the same goals. That was to do the job the best we could do it. And I think we both did that. He did it till the end."

The two, who also went to the same high school together, used to fly together and were partners in the sky.

"We'd have problems with the instruments on my chopper and he would tell me, this is what you have to do," Kane said. "Just a great guy. He took away my fear of flying."

SEE ALSO: Pilot, photographer killed after Action News' Chopper 6 crashes in wooded area of New Jersey

"Life brought us together, and friends forever. And it hurts, it really does hurt," Kane added. "Tomorrow I'll wake up and wish it was a dream, but I know it's not."

Smith was a mentor to many.

"Monroe was a mentor and a friend and it's a big loss for all of us," Kane said. "I have two pictures of two of my boys in the chopper. You talk about being a mentor -- both of them wanted to fly."

The Glenside resident was a retired army pilot who was so proud of his son who was also a military pilot. He also has a new grandbaby.

Dougherty, the photographer onboard the helicopter, is survived by two daughters and a wife. He was said to play guitar in the office from time to time while waiting for his next assignment.

SEE ALSO: Here's how a federal agency will investigate the fatal crash of Action News helicopter Chopper 6

Here's how a federal agency will investigate the fatal crash of Action News helicopter Chopper 6

Kane also knew Dougherty.

"I did not only lose one person I knew, I lost two that I consider to be friends and mentors. It's a double hurt," he said.

Kane said Dougherty would often talk about his family when they'd have dinner together, adding that he would do anything to help a friend.

"He was like Monroe, if someone needed help, no competition," said Kane.

Dave Allegretti has been friends with Dougherty since kindergarten. He said the photographer filled every party or get-together with his infectious laugh and beloved storytelling.

"Genuine, fun loving, kind and positive person. Filled every party or get together with his infectious laugh and beloved storytelling. He enjoyed listening to and creating music. He was an avid Philly sports fan, a dedicated and talented photographer, but most importantly, he was an incredible husband, father, brother, son, and friend," said Allegretti in a statement to Action News.

Both crew members of Chopper 6 were highly experienced and well-known in this community.

"It was an honor, an absolute honor to say I worked with him. He loved his city. He loved his community. He was so proud of being from North Philadelphia," said Anne Smith, who knew Smith.

She said they used to laugh about sharing the same last name, despite having no relation.

Dougherty and Smith have a long history with our station and have been working as part of the Action News team for years.

Chopper 6 and our crews have worked out of the Northeast Philadelphia Airport since launching in February 1980. The hangar is right next to the Philadelphia Police Aviation Unit.

Lt. Scott Pastman has been flying for the police department for 17 years and said he would see our team regularly.

He described them both as kind and outgoing.

"It hits home. Every night we're up doing the same thing," Pastman said. "[I] really feel for their families. Horrible news that we got."

"You do it because you have a job to do. That's what he did," said Kane.

SEE ALSO: Community shows support for 6abc Action News after fatal Chopper 6 crash

Tributes pour in following death of Chopper 6 pilot, photographer

Chopper 6 was a 2013 American Eurocopter AS-350 Astar, which 6abc leases from U.S. Helicopters Inc. based in North Carolina.

In a statement, U.S. Helicopters said Smith and Dougherty were "beloved" long-time employees of the company.

"We deeply sympathize with their families and share in their grief as a result of this tragic event. We will share arrangements in accordance with the families' wishes," the statement reads.

"We will cooperate with the FAA and other authorities during their investigation and are still gathering information, so we cannot comment or provide further information on the cause of this tragedy," the statement continued. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of our cherished colleagues."

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.