KTLA copter owned the Baldwin Hills dam disaster

Doug Wilson/Herald Examiner at LA Public Library.

In Los Angeles in the 1960s, there were three huge local news stories that riveted people in front of their televisions — mostly to watch KTLA Channel 5, because that was the only station with a news helicopter. First was the hugely destructive Bel Air fire in 1961. Four years later, in 1965, we watched rioters in Watts shoot at the Channel 5 helicopter. In between, on Dec. 14, 1963, the DWP's Baldwin Hills Dam broke while KTLA was showing viewers the scene. In the ensuing flood, 277 homes were destroyed and 5 lives were lost. For Saturday's 50th anniversary, KTLA posted this footage from a 1982 special on the dam break featuring Channel 5 news veterans Hal Fishman and Stan Chambers.

Saturday on Facebook, retired LA news legend Pete Noyes tipped his hat to KTLA and says his crew from "The Big News" at KNXT Channel 2 was at the dam (without helicopter) and barely got out alive.

I got an early tip that the dam might bust open at any moment, and we had three men standing on the rim when the disaster took place, reporter Saul Halpert, cameraman Doug Dare and soundman Pierre Adidge. Trouble was we had no live picture. KTLA was the only game in town with its chopper and live camera....News director Stan Chambers graciously allowed us to take [the Channel 5] picture from the scene in exchange for our film footage of the dam busting loose. Finally our guys were rescued by the sheriff's crew and got back to Channel 2 in good order with their spectacular video. What a day. One which I won't soon forget.

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