Remembering Captain Paul Smith

October 7, 2008 7:08:57 AM PDT
It was October 7th, one year ago that we lost Newscopter 7 pilot Captain Paul Smith. He was killed when a cab jumped the curb and smashed into a crowd of people on the sidewalk outside a popular midtown restaurant. His wife, Donna, suffered a broken pelvis and shattered ribs and spent weeks in the hospital and in rehab.

Viewers rarely saw Capt. Smith, but in the newsroom, we always knew our reporters were safe in the skies when he was at the controls. While we now have Captain Matt expertly piloting Newscopter 7, we still miss Capt. Paul's presence on the air. As you watch the news this week, look for Shannon Sohn's reports and take a close look at the photo over her shoulder. To this day, she keeps a picture of Capt Paul in the chopper along with a photo of her children.

Paul's wife of 30 years, Donna Smith, wrote recently, and asked that we share her gratitude and appreciation for all the thoughts, gifts and prayers of this past year. Here is her thank you in her own words:

"We want to deeply thank you for the thoughts, gifts, prayers and love you all have graciously given us in the past several months. We are grateful to all who knew Paul and supported us during this difficult time. Being part of ABC and having the opportunity of flying over this great City of New York, side-by-side with his reporters, Shannon and John, and his fellow pilots, was Paul's passion. He was truly at home in the air.

Words can not begin to express our appreciation, so I will end with some of Paul's feelings on life:

"We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. But it is transient. It is a little parenthesis in eternity. If we share with caring, lightheartedness, and love, we will create abundance and joy for each other. And then this moment will have been worthwhile." Paul was laid to rest April 25th in Arlington, Virginia.

Donna, Cory and Cale Smith

Newscopter 7's Shannon Sohn remembers Captain Paul Smith:

Today marks one year since we tragically lost Captain Paul Smith. So many people showed their support for us in NewsCopter 7 and for Paul's family, that we wanted to take a moment to thank you for all you did to help us through a difficult time, and to let you know how we are doing today ? after a full year of getting used to life without Paul.

So much has happened in the past year! Donna is still recovering from her injuries sustained in the accident a year ago, but even walking with a cane, she is moving on with life, and living it to the fullest, all with the help of her sons, Corey and Cale. Corey is now engaged to Meredith, the woman Paul loved so much (and who got my approval, as well). Many of you may not know this, but peach orchards were a part of Paul's life back in Oklahoma long before he became "Captain Paul," and as a tribute to him, Corey and Meredith are set to get married in a Peach Orchard on the Island next summer, and I'm hoping they'll let me make their wedding cake!

As for me ? Paul always called me his "other" wife, but always made me feel like a daughter. We could talk about anything, and joked about everything. It was FUN flying with Paul in NewsCopter 7, and even more fun getting to know him and his family on a personal level. You may not know it, but it is very close quarters up there in NewsCopter 7, and as a pilot/repoter team, you share a lot of tense moments. You really depend on each other to be your best. Because of the unique conditions, you really become more than just co-workers ? you become friends.

So, as I'm sure you can imagine, here in NewsCopter 7, life has changed. Losing Paul was a hard hit for us, and we want to thank the viewers for your patience while we went through a difficult transition. I will always miss flying with Paul, but just as he helped me learn the job through his years of experience, I am now doing the same with Captain Matt Seems. Matt is less than half Paul's age, so everything was turned upside down in the cockpit. I went from being the daughter to the mother ? but Paul fathered me well, and really prepared me for the job. Flying with Matt is certainly different than flying with Paul (for one thing, my back doesn't hurt when we land), but it's nice. Paul left me in very capable hands, with a pilot who is becoming just as passionate about Channel 7 as he was. Many a flight, I have shared Paul's wisdom with Matt, and Matt allows me to reminisce about the "good old days" with Paul. But now we are creating new good times, and you'll hear me saying, "Alongside Captain Matt Seems," but if you look over my shoulder, you can still see a picture of Captain Paul, along with a picture of my kids. He still rides with me in spirit, even if he can't be there with me physically.