I never had the pleasure of meeting photojournalist Matthew Moore, but his is a story I will never forget. In the summer of 2004, Moore was on assignment with a reporter and two interns covering an oil well explosion near Franklin, TX, about an hour away from his news station in College Station, Texas. The explosion was so big, we heard buzz about it on the scanners in Austin, so I ended up heading to Franklin with a photographer to cover it. Just as we arrived into town though, we heard some scanner traffic about an electrical outage affecting the south side of Franklin, caused by a news livetruck. We realized something terrible had happened.
When I arrived to the scene, I saw police cars surrounding Moore’s KBTX-TV livetruck. The truck’s mast was extended, touching the power lines overhead. The accident killed Matthew Moore, who was standing outside the truck while handling controls inside of it to establish a liveshot. Police told me the reporter and two interns were all inside the truck when the mast hit the lines. Since none of them were directly connecting the truck to the ground, the electrical current didn’t kill them. It was a terrible situation. KBTX was 23 year old Moore’s first job. Days after the accident, I learned that he was up for a job in Austin at my old station, KXAN-TV. The chief photographer told me Moore had a very strong tape, and was excited about the possibility of working in Austin. For more about that tragic day, see this article written by the National Press Photographers Association.
It happened again in November 2009, to my colleagues at WSB-TV Atlanta.
Thankfully, the two veterans, photojournalist Leonard Raglin and reporter Tom Jones survived the accident with minor injuries. They were both inside the vehicle when the truck’s mast struck power lines carrying 115,000 volts of electricity. The resulting current blew a crater into the ground, and snapped the mast off the truck.
It’s important that everyone working in television news knows rules of livetruck safety, because not knowing can be deadly. Whether you are student, a newsroom intern following crews on assignment, or a reporter working your first job, I ask that you please set aside a few minutes to watch this important video, called Look Up and Live! It’s a little long, but it’s very important and worth your time. You will learn about the do’s and don’ts of operating a livetruck, the importance of putting safety first to always check for power lines, and find out how to escape a truck should it ever come in contact with power lines.
Please also pass this information along to your friends, if you know that they will be working around livetrucks.
Safety First. Look Up and Live.