Trivial Pursuit: Meet Spitzer Chopper-Chase Guy Dan Rice

On Monday afternoon, Mr. Rice told NYTV that the slow-motion governor chase followed by the intense crane disaster ranked up there with the most intense experiences of his 15 years in the business—including the time a few years ago when he filmed a tanker truck blowing up on Route 80.

Not all the memorable moments were so dramatic. A few years ago, the Chopper 4 crew heard rumors that a bear was on the loose in Livingston, N.J.

“I was just wrapping up the report,” said Mr. Rice, “when in my ear, Lars is like, ‘Quick, point the camera to the right!’ There was the bear! So now we have a bear pursuit. People are waking up and getting their coffee and their cheerios, and we’re watching some poor Yogi run through a bunch of people’s backyards. That’s a good day, when nobody gets hurt and you can have a laugh.”

On Monday morning, after the intense weekend of crane coverage, Mr. Rice was back in the air above Manhattan, filming the St. Patrick’s Day parade, when word came in of a fire off a turnpike in New Jersey. “We flew over there and watched the brush fire,” said Mr. Rice. “It’s been a busy couple of days.”

In retrospect, Mr. Rice noted that Mr. Spitzer had proven why they don’t get more car pursuits in New York. “You can’t go anywhere,” said Mr. Rice. “Someone steals a car and jumps on the cross Bronx. They get stuck in traffic. Pursuit’s over.”

Two years ago, author Tad Friend wrote a 6,845-word piece in The New Yorker about the deeply ingrained culture of car chases in L.A. When NYTV caught up with Mr. Friend over the weekend, he said that while he had been impressed with the New York helicopter coverage of the crane disaster, the governor-pursuit footage underwhelmed him.

“There were a lot of times when they would lose him behind a tall building,” said Mr. Friend, who said he spent the duration of the ride flipping back and forth between cable news channels. “And it took an interminable amount of time. In L.A. you can just get on a freeway and go. In New York, you’re just waiting at a light and you’re surrounded by like 52 cabs. It’s all very tedious.”

Nor was he buying the comparison with the O. J. chase. “If Spitzer had been sitting in the back seat with a gun to his head, well, maybe,” said Mr. Friend.

“It underscored why New York doesn’t have these chases on a regular basis,” he added. “Because, the real excitement for Spitzer would have been if his driver had decided to take the F.D.R. And even then, really, how far can you go?”

Mr. Rice said that the governor-pursuit story had, in fact, ended oddly. He said the Chopper 4 team had been planning to provide footage of Mr. Spitzer, post-resignation, as he made his way back home. But then Lars and the rest of the helicopter news pilots, according to Mr. Rice, got orders from the control tower at LaGuardia (which helps control airspace over the city) that they had to stay clear of midtown. Each helicopter, they were told, would be allowed 10 more minutes of footage back at the governor’s apartment. That was it.

Mr. Rice said he was still puzzled by the “peculiar” instructions. “We don’t know why that happened,” said Mr. Rice. “I don’t know if it was more about noise complaints, or if somebody finally decided to give the guy a break.”

Trivial Pursuit: Meet Spitzer Chopper-Chase Guy Dan Rice