If you talk to a New Yorker who was around back in 1986 and mention that “lady traffic reporter” you will stir up a few memories. Jane Dornacker worked for WNBC as their airborne traffic reporter in the “N Copter.” She would give the current traffic report from high up in an Enstrom F-28F helicopter (N8617B). Both she and her pilot would often be seen zipping over the Manhattan skyline as traffic would stop and flow on the Long Island Expressway, FDR Drive or inch outbound thru the Lincoln Tunnel. Most New Yorkers had no idea who exactly this lady was, but she gave a great traffic report.
Jane had recently moved from San Francisco were she was a well-regarded stand up comedienne. Jane sang with the rock group The Tubes and sang and wrote “Don’t touch me there.”
Most people however, would recognize Jane from the movie “The Right Stuff” where she played the memorable character of Nurse Murch.
On October 22 at Dornacker was circling over the bank of the Hudson River giving her live report. “The outbound Lincoln Tunnel looks a lot better for you .In New Jersey…” At this moment listeners can her a revving sound as she pauses. She then franticly screams, “Hit the water, hit the water, hit the water.” The Enstom helicopter with Jane and her pilot strike a fence and crash into the Hudson River killing her and severely injuring her pilot.
Hundreds of thousands of listeners hear her tragic final words.
The cause of the crash was later determined to be a faulty counterfeit clutch that had components that did not meet government standards. Routine maintenance was performed earlier and at that time a clutch was purchased and placed into the Enstrom helicopter.
The crash that took the life of Jane Dornacker should have never happened. This was Jane’s second crash of that year.
Click on the link to hear her final report. It will load to a temporary file.