October 12, 2010

Covering a fatal accident

Much has happened in the last few days.

Yesterday, I was traveling to an event, with the idea of turning it into a video. But something happened which turned out to be even more important.

Traffic was stopped ahead of me, so I stopped as well. The situation as two vehicles, very badly wrecked. I figured that would make a good news piece, so I stopped as well. It must have happened only a few minutes earlier, because I was able to park very close to the crash.

I took some footage of first responders treating someone inside one of the wrecked vehicles. I could not see the person, which suited me just fine, because I try to avoid getting the faces of anyone being treated.

It turned out to be fortunate, because the person inside the vehicle was dead. Again, it is a strict policy with me never to take a picture of the deceased. However, I figure a vehicle is going to look the same, no matter if a corpse is inside or not.

When the state police arrived, I was instructed to leave the scene – which they usually do when a death is involved. I decided not to argue about it, figuring what I had would be sufficient.

But then the head of the fire department demanded that I turn over my camera to him. Although he thought it was a drone, but I’m certain the results would have been the same.

I told him in no uncertain terms I was not going to turn my equipment over to him. Which made him angry, and he demanded a number of times that I do it. To which I answered no each time.

Then he told that if I published the video I would answer to him for it. Or something to that effect. To which I replied “Do it,” meaning that it was going to be published. And I told him I stood on my rights as outlined in the First Amendment. (Got to love it!)

Then he and one of the state troopers on the scene tried persuasion. It seems that a popular practice is for people to record such situations on their cell phones, and post them to facebook. Which, I was told, causes distress for family members.

I finally compromised, as said I would give them to notify family members of the death. But I would eventually publish.

Which is what I did. I waited four hours. The state police could not confirm at the end of that period if notification had been made, but I figured it was plenty of time. After all, I too have a responsibility, and I can’t wait forever to carry it out.

Today, I went to the state police, and they provided a press release about the incident. So I was able to report the name on my website, plus other information about the incident. Which granted me an exclusive.

I contacted Channel 16 about the situation, and they were interested. But apparently too much time had passed, because when I called them again, I was unable to get through. Such is life.

I’ve got more stuff to do, so I’ll continue with my thoughts on this tomorrow. Until then, you’ll have to content yourselves with today’s bad joke.

Question: Why are ghosts such good cheerleaders?
Answer: Because they have a lot of spirit!

 

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