History | Did You Know

Her Tragic On-Air Death Shook An Entire City To Its Core

LifeLeak.com / SFGate

Anyone living in New York City and listening to the morning radio traffic report on WNBC 660 AM heard something that chilled them to the bone.

It was a moment that many would never forget  - the final few seconds of a well-loved radio personality's life as the pilot of her helicopter tried desperately to land their failing aircraft.

To many listening, it seemed like an average traffic report until a loud bang interrupts the broadcast, followed by traffic reporter Jane Dornacker's panicked screams of "hit the water, hit the water, hit the water!" and then silence.

Only months before, Jane had escaped death in another helicopter crash. She was terrified to fly again, but she knew that she had no choice...

Before she became a traffic reporter, Dornacker worked as a mail carrier, a comedian, a songwriter and an actress. She acted in the 1983 film "The Right Stuff" as Nurse Murch and performed in nightclubs and cabarets.

No one could have predicted that she would lose her life within a year of starting work for WNBC.

Dornacker was a fast-talking reporter who worked hard to provide a good life for her and her 17-year-old daughter. The lightening-fast speaker would often slip in a quick message to her daughter, Naomi, reminding her to get ready for school in the morning.

In April 1986, just months before her fatal accident, Jane had been preparing to report from a helicopter over the Hackensack River when the chopper crashed into the river just after takeoff.

Although shaken, neither she, nor the pilot, Bob Banes were seriously injured. They managed to swim to safety, but it would take two months before Jane would go up in a helicopter again.

A physician friend of Jane's, told The New York Times that she was terrified of returning to the air.

''After the first accident she was afraid of going up again but she knew she had to do it,'' Dr. Sparr said. ''She also said when she first went up flying, that it was kind of scary, but she really felt it was kind of beautiful driving along the Hudson at sunset.''

Jane was a friend of Whoopi Goldberg when they performed on the San Francisco comedy circuit.Order of the Good Write

Tragically, just months after regaining the courage to report from the air, the helicopter Jane was in crashed into the Hudson River mid-broadcast. It plummeted into the water just off of 45th Street on October 22, 1986.

Her last words were broadcast live for everyone to hear: "hit the water! Hit the water! Hit the water!" followed by silence.

''It was pretty frightening,'' said Chris Doyle, the producer. ''We didn't know what to do.''

''She doesn't ever pause,'' he continued. ''You can't get a word in there with a crowbar. I wondered what's the pause and a shiver went up my spine.''

Jane was pulled unconscious from the water and taken to St. Vincent's hospital, where she passed away 3 1/2 hours later.

You can hear the chilling broadcast below:

Do you remember this moment in time?

[h/t The New York Times / San Francisco Gate / Order of the Good Write]