Chris Wagner
Action News on WPVI-TV
Sunday, September 25, 1983


Jim Gardner
Action News on WPVI-TV
Sunday, September 25, 1983

Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Famer Jim O'Brien was known to Philadelphia as "the weather guy" on the 6 pm and 11 pm daily "Action News" newscasts on WPVI-TV. However, we was also the anchor on the 12 noon and 5 pm newscasts. At 5 pm, he co-anchored with Broadcast Pioneers member Marc Howard. He was also remembered as a WFIL, Famous 56 "Boss Jock."

On Sunday, September 25, 1983, at 12:30 pm, Jim O'Brien was killed in a skydiving accident. Jim and a friend were jumping and both chutes opened normally.

They both started a maneuver called a “corkscrew” which allows them to get to the ground faster and thus they would be able to do more jumps in one day. The two got tangled. Jim decided to cut his ropes and open his reserve chute. However, he was too close to the ground and his chute did not have time to completely open. Jim’s jumping buddy for that day was supposed to be Gary Papa, an inductee into our “Hall of Fame” but Gary canceled at the last minute. O’Brien once said after a jump, “That whole experience, which lasted 45 minutes, was as near to God as I ever hope to be.”

The two pictures above are from that evening's coverage at 6 pm and 11 pm, both anchored by Chris Wagner. On the 6 pm broadcast, Main Anchor, Jim Gardner (a Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Famer and former Person of the Year) spoke about his feelings that day. It was repeated on the 11 pm news.

We have in our archives, courtesy of Ron Turner, an historic piece of video. It's the 11 pm "Action News" coverage of the O'Brien accident.

It is encoded as "Surestream Real Video." That is, the file contains two different streams, one for dial-up Internet users and a better, more clear version for those on broadband. Your computer will automatically select the correct version. It is also "rolling video." That is, it is divided into 3 segments for quick and faster loading. Once the video starts, it will automatically go from one segment to the next with you doing anything. For those on broadband, it will be almost seamless. For those watching via a dial-up connection, there may be a pause between segments. This is normal.

Watch the video!

From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Video courtesy of Ron Turner and the Famous website
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