Aug. 18 (UPI) — Local television anchor Nancy Parker has died in a crash of a stunt plane in New Orleans along with the pilot, Franklin J.P. Augustus, while covering a story on him.
Parker, 53, an award-winning journalist at the Fox-affiliated WVUE station in New Orleans who covered South Louisiana for over two decades, was shooting a feature story on Augustus on the stunt plane.
Augustus, 69, was a veteran stunt pilot and New Orleans-based member of a Louisiana group that honored the Tuskegee Airmen, who took her up in his aerobatic plane.
The plane crashed occurred in an empty field Friday afternoon near New Orleans Lakefront Airport and erupted into fire, according to Collin Arnold, the director of New Orleans’ Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said the 1983 Pitts S-2B aircraft crashed about a half-mile south of the airport under unknown circumstances.
Fox 8 anchor Lee Zurik said his colleague was on the plane “doing what she loved, telling a story,” while choking back tears after announcing her death during a break in programming.
Parker started her broadcast journalist career at a television station in Columbus, Ga., then moved on to Montgomery, Ala., Baton Rouge, La., and New Orleans. Her reporting earned multiple honors, including five Emmy Awards for in-depth documentaries and features about the human spirit.
Augustus was one of the world’s few African-American stunt pilots, according to media reports, and 30 years ago, he described himself as the “world’s only black civilian air-show pilot.”
He was president of the Lake Charles Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., according to a website for the organization. The group honors the legacy of the group of African-American military pilots and other members of Army Air Corps group formed during World War II.
Augustus was not a Tuskegee Airman himself, administrator director Maggie Thomas said, but anyone can become a member of a local chapter and members vote for presidents during elections.
Thomas said Augustus was a passionate pilot dedicated to the organization.
“He was one of the most passionate people I know,” Thomas said. “He was remarkable and full of energy.”