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1968 plane crash knocked Newswatch 12 off the air for nearly a yearSubmitted: 09/26/2016
RHINELANDER - Newswatch 12 turned 50 this year, but it's actually lucky the station made it past year two.

A tragic accident in 1968 knocked the station off the air for nearly a year, and William Anderson was one of the two that lived through it.

"It's a quite a story," said Anderson.

At 93-years-old, some of his memories may have faded, but there's one he'll never forget.


Anderson worked at Newswatch 12 when the station first went on air in 1966. 

"There was another chief engineer there at the time, but he wasn't there very long and then I took over," Anderson said.

Anderson worked on everything from cameras to commercials at the station, but in 1968, he was almost out of a job.

Anderson was also one of two people in building when a plane crashed into the transmitter tower on November 17, 1968.

"I heard something hit the roof, and I said, 'By god she's coming down.' And I dove with my head down by the lower steps and a rack fell across me and when I stood up I touched the tower base," said Anderson. "It went right through the whole building, knocked down a 55ft ceiling in the studio. I saw sky and I saw an airplane out there."

The small plane was carrying three people back home after a hunting trip in the U.P. All three people died, but Anderson and the other employee working at the time walked away with injuries.

"The glass broke as I dove, my right arm was kind of numb at the time. So I got up and I called the police, I called the fire department, I called the hospital, I called my wife," said Anderson. "Then I went outside and there was a woman there with a car and I said, 'Would you take me to the hospital?'"

After Anderson recovered from his injuries, he got back to work. As Chief Engineer, it was his job to get the station up and running again. 

"How about a solid year to put it back on the air," said Anderson.

The tower was rebuilt where the old one was in Starks, but the station was rebuilt in its current location in Rhinelander.

Anderson traveled to Washington D.C. to learn latest broadcasting technology, and Newswatch 12 became one of the first color TV stations in the country.

"It was the first transistorized transmitter in the country and up here in Rhinelander we had it," said Anderson.

Nearly five decades later, Anderson knows the station has gone on to serve a good life, thanks in part to a man who turned a tragic accident into a lifetime of television success. 

"I just enjoyed working there all the time," said Anderson.


Story By: Katie Thoresen

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