He'd flown helicopters during the Vietnam War, and later in New York City for WABC-TV, as a news pilot, brought viewers close to countless horrific events: the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Staten Island ferry crash and the recent steam pipe explosion in Manhattan.
But on Sunday evening it was doing something comparatively safe - standing on a
midtown sidewalk - that put Paul Smith in harm's way. Police say Smith, 60, of West
Islip, and his wife Donna, 55, had just left a restaurant when a taxicab jumped the
curb and ran over him.
Smith was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Yesterday, his wife remained there in stable condition with a fractured leg. A 7-year-old boy had his arm broken in the crash, police said. It was not clear whether he was related to Smith.
No charges have been filed against the driver, who tested negative for
Police were reviewing security cameras and investigating the accident, which took place at Third Avenue and East 40th Street. They said the cabbie said he was swerving to avoid another car.
The driver, Mohammed Chowdury, told reporters last night he was forced off the road by a black car that cut him off. He had been driving a cab just five weeks, he said.
As word of Smith's death continued to spread among friends and co-workers yesterday, many recalled a talented pilot keen on safety who shoveled his elderly neighbors' driveway and was close to his two grown sons and wife.
"No one's doing well, and how could they be?" said Shannon Sohn, a helicopter reporter for WABC-TV who flew with Smith for the last 10 years. "But they're going to pull through it because they were an amazingly strong family ... He raised boys who are going to get their mother through this."
Smith's friends said he'd gotten his start in aviation during Vietnam, eventually flying some of the most difficult helicopters to navigate. He completed two tours and continued his love for flying, going on to become a pilot and director of safety for Helicopters Inc., a St. Louis-based company that provides news helicopters.
"He was our guardian in that helicopter,"said Kenny Plotnik, vice president and news director for WABC-TV. "Safety was his first, middle and last name."
Though he wasn't responsible for taking photographs or reporting, Sohn said, Smith quickly took on a flair for news gathering - eager to be the first at the scene and get the best material, all the while with an eye toward safety. It was Smith, Sohn recalled, who flew her toward the Henry Hudson Parkway in Washington Heights when a retaining wall collapsed onto the roadway in 2005, and when a helicopter for Channel 4 crashed on a Flatbush rooftop in 2004 - coverage of which won WABC-TV an Emmy.
Despite any stress, Smith remained cool under pressure.
John Del Giorno, whose son also sat next to Smith in the newscopter for WABC-TV, remembered how on September 11, 2001, Smith had calmed his son as they were up in the air when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. Del Giorno, a World War II veteran, said: "He treated me like I was a war hero. I should have been treating him like a war hero."
Neighbors in West Islip recalled how proud he was of his two sons - one a recent college graduate, the other a New York City police officer. "It makes you think how fragile life really is," said Diane Belliveau. "This is going to leave a big emptiness on the street."
Maria Alvarez and staff writers Rocco Parascandola and John Valenti contributed to this story.
Mr. Smith and his wife had been at the restaurant celebrating the birthday of Patsy Dello Iacono of Largo, Fla.
He learned to fly in the military and served two tours in Vietnam, friends
He won a local Emmy Award in 2005 for spot-news coverage of a WNBC-TV helicopter crash in Brooklyn in May 2004.
Mr. Smith lived with his wife of nearly 30 years, Donna, and their sons, Cale, 24, and Cory, 26, an officer
with the New York Police Department, in a ranch-style house in West Islip, on Long Island, on a quiet street
a few blocks from the Great South Bay.
John J. DelGiorno, 37, a reporter for WABC and Metro Traffic, a traffic news
who was a partner with Mr. Smith in the Newscopter Seven,
recalled the time when they shot aerial images right after the September 11 attack.
�I was scared out of my mind,� he said. �The second airplane actually flew right past us. He looked at me and said,
�We�ll be O.K.� He was stern and straightforward and got us through that experience.
�He was calm under pressure. He had seen a lot, both in Vietnam and in life in general.�
Paul Smith, 60, was employed by Helicopters Inc. for WABC.
3136 Domar St
Memphis TN 38118-3527
Helicopters Inc is a Part 91 commercial helicopter service. We are based at the
General Dewitt Spain airport in Memphis (M01) but operate regionally and provide a
variety of flight services.
Please bookmark our site and visit us again. This site contains information about what we do as well as password-protected areas from which our clients can retrieve digital, GPS-encoded images, flight reports, and other information which we produce using our in-house technology.
Please contact us directly if you are interested in the services we offer, from pipeline/powerline inspection and imaging, aerial photography and video, and helitours.
We will be selling rides at fairs, barbeque contests, and airshows on many weekends through September. If you've ridden with us at one of these events, we are pleased that you looked up our web page. If you'd like to ride with us again, please call us to arrange for a longer and more individual helitour.
With a specially-modified Kodak DCS-420 high-resolution digital camera connected to
a GPS receiver,
we can photograph sites from the air
Helicopters Inc. fulfills serveral long-term pipeline survey contracts, as well as doing on-call inspection work.
Helicopters Inc also provides services to a variety of photographers and videographers as well as capturing the images with our gyro stabilized cameras. Please contact us directly for rates and references.
Regular inspections of some types of underground pipelines are required by the
Department of Transportation.
(enstrom choppers used)
Breeden, Wayne M.
Wayne Breeden, CFI
Aerial Photographers , Aircraft Charter Rental And Leasing , Charter Helicopter Rental And Leasing
Breeden Wayne M
3136 Domar St
Memphis, TN, 38118
Wilson, Glen K. II "Buddy"
Member, Aviation Unit1
Memphis Police Department
to Mr. Benjamin Hewlett of Victor Airways, LLC,
on the purchase of his new Enstrom 480B Helicopter. Pictured is Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Mullins, President of Enstrom Corporation, Mr. Benjamin Hewlett, Kevin McCutcheon, President of Flight Solutions, Lee Barefield, Office Manager and Wayne Breeden, Enstrom Check Airman.
Catholic New York - Lead Story - April 29, 1999
The day after the Littleton, Colo., high school massacre, Cardinal O'Connor told a congregation of high school seniors that there is so much violence today because "we have a world filled with so much hate."
Musharraf OK as 4 die in crash of aides' copter
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - A helicopter carrying aides to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf crashed Monday as the Pakistani leader flew to Kashmir. Though blamed on a technical fault, the accident revived concern for Musharraf's safety as his war with Islamic militants intensifies.
The dead included a cameraman for state television, a military intelligence brigadier and two soldiers, officials said. The president's spokesman, Rashid Qureshi, who suffered a burn to his right hand, was among five passengers injured.