'60 Minutes' correspondent Bob Simon wasn't wearing seat belt in deadly crash, police say

NEW YORK -- Authorities say speed appears to have been a factor in the accident that killed "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon on the West Side Highway Wednesday night.

Police added it does not appear Simon was wearing a seat belt as he rode in the back of a livery cab that hit a Mercedes.

Outside the CBS Broadcast Center on West 57th Street "60 Minutes" executive producer Jeff Fager agreed it was particularly cruel someone who had reported from every dangerous place on the planet would die in a traffic accident.

"To die the way he did adds to the shock of it," Fager said. "It's part of what makes it hard to get hold of this for a lot of us."

Fager said Simon "went through some of the toughest, most difficult and most dangerous assignments and really didn't talk about it very much."

On Wednesday, what turned out to be Simon's last day at work, he completed a story on an Ebola drug which will air this Sunday on 60 Minutes. Simon's daughter produced the piece. The following Sunday Fager the program would air a retrospective of Simon's career.

"Airing the story that he just finished is the best tribute," Fager said. "It's a real shock to CBS News and to "60 Minutes." Bob was an institution here."

60 Minutes correspondent and legendary journalist Bob Simon was killed in a livery cab crash on the West Side.

Bob Simon killed in livery cab crash

Simon, 73, was the passenger of a 2010 Lincoln Town Car that lost control, struck a black 2003 Mercedes stopped at a red light at West 30th Street and crashed into a pedestrian median on 12th Avenue at 30th Street on the West Side just before 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Damage to the Mercedes is inconsistent with an extraordinary rate of speed, officials said. A theory is that upon that initial impact the Lincoln driver accelerated before he careened into the concrete and metal bollards.

The Lincoln records data the instant the air bag deploys. Detectives will apply for a search warrant to review the data and determine how fast the vehicle was traveling.

The livery driver of Simon's car, Reshad Abdul Fedahi, had a probationary FHV (for hire vehicle) license, meaning he has been a livery driver for less than a year, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission. He got his TLC license in October 2014. His TLC license has now been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

Reshad Abdul Fedahi, the driver of the livery cab in the crash that killed 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon.

He has two previous moving violations and nine license suspensions on his driving record that have all been cleared. The suspensions appear to have been administrative, not for safety violations.

Simon went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to St. Luke's Hospital where he later died. The 44-year-old livery driver was taken to Bellevue Hospital with two broken legs and a broken arm. He remained in the hospital on Thursday. The driver of the Mercedes Benz was uninjured. Police say neither driver tested positive for alcohol.

The longtime "60 Minutes" correspondent who had covered most major overseas conflicts and news stories since the late 1960s during a five-decade career in journalism was 73.

Simon was among a handful of elite journalists, a "reporter's reporter," according to his executive producer, whose assignments took him from the Vietnam War to the Oscar-nominated movie "Selma." He spent years doing foreign reporting for CBS News, particularly from the Middle East, where he was held captive for more than a month in Iraq two decades ago.

"Bob Simon was a giant of broadcast journalism, and a dear friend to everyone in the CBS News family," CBS News President David Rhodes said in a statement. "We are all shocked by this tragic, sudden loss."

"CBS Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley, his eyes red, announced the death in a special report. "We have some sad news from within our CBS News family," Pelley said. "Our colleague Bob Simon was killed this evening."

"Vietnam is where he first began covering warfare, and he gave his firsthand reporting from virtually every major battlefield around the world since," Pelley said.

Simon had been contributing to "60 Minutes" on a regular basis since 1996. He also was a correspondent for "60 Minutes II."

Anderson Cooper, who does occasional stories for "60 Minutes," was near tears talking about Simon's death. He said that when Simon presented a story "you knew it was going to be something special."

"I dreamed of being, and still hope to be, a quarter of the writer that Bob Simon is and has been," the CNN anchor said. "... Bob Simon was a legend, in my opinion."

Simon joined CBS News in 1967 as a reporter and assignment editor, covering campus unrest and inner-city riots, CBS said. He also worked in CBS' Tel Aviv bureau from 1977 to 1981 and in Washington, D.C., as its Department of State correspondent.

Simon's career in war reporting began in Vietnam, and he was on one of the last helicopters out of Saigon when the U.S. withdrew in 1975. At the outset of the Gulf War in January 1991, Simon was captured by Iraqi forces near the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. CBS said he and three other members of CBS News' coverage team spent 40 days in Iraqi prisons, an experience Simon wrote about in his book "Forty Days." Simon returned to Baghdad in January 1993 to cover the American bombing of Iraq.

Simon won numerous awards, including his fourth Peabody and an Emmy for his story from Central Africa on the world's only all-black symphony in 2012. Another story about an orchestra in Paraguay, one whose poor members constructed their instruments from trash, won him his 27th Emmy, perhaps the most held by a journalist for field reporting, CBS said.

He also captured electronic journalism's highest honor, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, for "Shame of Srebrenica," a "60 Minutes II" report on genocide during the Bosnian War.

Former CBS News executive Paul Friedman, who teaches broadcast writing at Quinnipiac University, said Simon was "one of the finest reporters and writers in the business."

"He, better than most, knew how to make pictures and words work together to tell a story, which is television news at its best," Friedman said.

Simon was born May 29, 1941, in the Bronx. He graduated from Brandeis University in 1962 with a degree in history. He is survived by his wife, his daughter and his grandson.

(Some information from the Associated Press)
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