KRQE-TV reporter dies in Lincoln County helicopter crash - Albuquerque Journal

KRQE-TV reporter dies in Lincoln County helicopter crash

Longtime reporter and aviator Bob Martin died Saturday when the KRQE news helicopter he was flying crashed near Corona. (Courtesy of KRQE)

The Sky News 13 helicopter crashed in rural central New Mexico on Saturday, killing veteran KRQE pilot and reporter Bob Martin.

Martin, who worked for KRQE-TV for nearly 30 years, was pronounced dead at the site of the crash in Lincoln County, according to New Mexico State Police. The cause of the crash remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Martin’s colleagues struggled to keep it together Saturday night as they reported on the crash during their 10 p.m. broadcast.

“We start tonight with heavy hearts here at KRQE,” anchor Madeline Schmitt said, her voice breaking. She said a helicopter had gone down in rugged terrain north of Carrizozo, and the wreckage was found close to the last known location of the station’s helicopter.

“It’s all but certain that it’s our news helicopter, and our pilot and friend Bob Martin,” she told viewers.

Confirmation would come from State Police on Sunday morning.

“It’s about as tough as you can imagine,” KRQE vice president and general manager Bill Anderson said Sunday. “He’s a central character here.”

Anderson said Martin, 64, was not only Channel 13’s pilot, but one of its best “reporters, writers, editors, photographers.” He was a mentor who taught new employees “how to be a good person on top of being a good reporter.”

Reporter Bob Martin flies over the Rio Grande in Albuquerque.(Courtesy of KRQE)

Martin stayed the night in Roswell after covering Friday night football “getting sports highlights from the air,” Anderson said. On his way back to Albuquerque on Saturday, he was “gathering a few more shots,” before the helicopter crashed as it passed through Lincoln County.

Police said they were notified of a downed aircraft near Corona at 5:14 p.m. Saturday.

His co-workers gathered in the newsroom Saturday night to grieve the loss and to share their favorite stories. Anderson said Martin is survived by his wife, Marilyn Painter, a national sales manager for The CW.

News of Martin’s death circulated on social media late Saturday and into Sunday. Current and former Albuquerque-area reporters lamented the loss of a man who many considered both a dear friend and colleague.

“Although many of us work as competitors, all journalists in New Mexico are part of our journalism family and we hope our friends at KRQE will reach out if they need support,” the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande Chapter wrote on Facebook.

According to his biography on KRQE’s website, Martin graduated from Socorro High School before studying journalism at Eastern New Mexico University. He went on to work for KBIM in Roswell and joined KRQE in 1989, where he tackled stories here and overseas.

Martin, who had been flying helicopters for KRQE for at least 27 years, was also an airplane pilot and balloonist, Anderson said. He was also a licensed drone pilot and had an expert sport skydiver’s license, according to KRQE’s website.

At KRQE he often covered wildfires, and took emails and texts from people whose homes were in danger. He would fly over the area, the website reported, and provide them with detailed information about the condition of their property.

“We’ll remember him by going back to work,” Anderson said. “We’ll remember him by doing our jobs well. We’ll remember him by loving the communities of New Mexico.”

KRQE-TV’s helicopter crashed Saturday afternoon in Lincoln County. Pilot Bob Martin was killed in the wreck, police said. (Courtesy of KRQE)

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