Date board of inquiry will be convened and its
members (if such a board is formed). Boards of
inquiry usually are not formed unless the
accident results in a major loss of Navy property,
such as a shipboard fire. However, all aircraft
accidents, even minor ones, are investigated
Lives still imperiled. If people are still trapped,
this rates coverage with the casualties and will
require follow-up coverage as well.
Property loss or damage. It is not necessary that
you state the price of an airplane each time one
crashes, but when a structure is damaged by the
crash, media will want to know its value. You
might want to keep a list on your desk of Navy
aircraft and the approximate cost of each model.
Disposition of the dead. State where the bodies
have been taken.
Care of the injured. Like the previous category,
the care of the injured is especially applicable in
off-station accidents. The story should state
where the injured are being treated.
Statements from survivors, especially where
heroic acts are involved. Such statements are
unnecessary in routine accidents. However, in a
major catastrophe, they could be extremely
valuable in piecing together a true picture of
exactly what happened.
Rescue work still underway. This is related to
victims still imperiled.
Human interest items. Noteworthy escapes,
before his plane crashes into an isolated field.
rescues or unusual circumstances involved
should be acknowledged.
OTHER FACTORS TO KEEP IN MIND
Accidents are caused by various circumstances. The
major causes for most accidents are human error,
mechanical failure, disturbances of nature and acts of
When a pilot misjudges the planes altitude, attitude
or airspeed and crashes upon the deck of an aircraft
carrier, the accident is due to human error.
If a hydraulic catapult aboard the same carrier
explodes and kills several aviation boatswains mates,
the cause of the accident might be mechanical failure.
If the same ship were battered about in a violent
storm at sea, and several crew members were injured
when they were thrown out of their bunks, the accident
could be blamed on disturbances of nature.
Finally, there are accidents that cannot be attributed
to any of the above causes, and therefore, are classified
under acts of God. Note the following example: A bee
stings the coxswain of a motor launch, causing him to
lose his footing, fall overboard and drown.
When an accident occurs in the Navy and an account
of it gets into the newspaper, the reader automatically
looks for someone or something to blame. The reader
often forgets that circumstances as well as persons and
things cause accidents.
In writing an accident story, the Navy journalist
should attempt to explain these circumstances. With
proper handling, an accident story may result in better
understanding and appreciation by the public of the
everyday hazards Navy personnel face.
Take, for example, an aircraft accident in which the
pilot manages to parachute to safety just moments
Regardless of the fact nobody was hurt and there was
no private property damage, many readers will approach
the facts with a negative point of view. Unless told
differently, they will think about the story in terms of
carelessness or negligence. Either the pilot did not
know how to handle the plane, or the ground crew did
not adequately prepare it for flight. These are typical
What the reader does not know, however, is that the
plane might have suffered a flame-out over a heavily
populated city. To protect the lives of people below, the
pilot may have decided to stick with the disabled plane
until it reached an unpopulated area. In doing this, the
pilot jeopardized his own chances for survival.
The reader never learns these facts unless they are
mentioned in the story. Decisions and actions such as
these should not be included just in the story; they
should be featured in the lead. It is your responsibility
to have the common sense and ability to recognize these
facts and play them up accordingly.
In another story, a sailor is killed in an auto accident.
There is nothing unusual or spectacular about it. Nobody
else is involved. The driver was killed when the car blew
a tire on a sharp curve, veered out of control and
smashed into a utility pole. Circumstances caused the