Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What is it Like to Beat LA?

LOS ANGELES has a temperamental attitude.  One minute it is spitting fire through the brushes in Malibu while the thick dry winds blow, when suddenly the sky turns deep gray and large raindrops cut through the smog that is as thick as the scandals that surround the city. Until finally the sky is clear again, but only for a moment, because the winds have begun again bringing blood shot eyes of the city dwellers with it. LA is a volatile boss, a big CEO of a production company, and when the newcomer enters into his realm he throws everything he’s got at the innocent intern. LA is constantly testing those who inhabit this town of insanity, because it is only those who can handle its mood swings that survive. If you don’t watch your back, LA will swallow you whole and spit you out with crazed eyes, bloodshot from the wind and smog.  One who came into this atmosphere as a youthful amateur of LA and came out alive and on top of the city is Larry Welk III.

Today, Welk is the president of Angle City Air, but back in 1990’s, he was only a newcomer in the field of news reporting from the air.  He held a camera to film while the pilot steered a helicopter through the LA’s battlefield. He was merely an intern, innocent to LA’s constant attitude problem.  “I was constantly biting off more than I could chew, but LA taught me how to deal with the unexpected,” Welk remarks about his first days in the sky. 

One unexpected event occurred in 1990’s.  LA decided that it was rain was going to fall.  For days, sharp rain sliced through the sky filling every nook and cranny of the city with water.  LA has trained it inhabitants against the Santa Ana’s and fires, which leaves the people of the city dumbfounded against water.  It wipes the city clean, yet leaves so much danger in its midst.  On this day, however, it rained so much that the LA River began to flood and the current crashed in the Sepulveda basin where the current would destroy anyone who got too close.  The city was in turmoil, not knowing how to handle this foreign moisture flittering from above. Welk was covering the chaotic events occurring on the ground through his lens above.  It was at the conclusion of this stormy week; there were car accidents, flooded streets, and a flooded river.  Young Welk and the crew flew back and forth between a press conference the LA Fire Department was holding and footage of the flooded river.  Moving in time with LA’s irony, “the Captain of the Fire Department just announced that they had the flood under control and the public was safe, when I saw a man in the river,” Welk remarked, his eyes growing wide.  “We called the Fire Department, but they didn’t believe us.  Apparently, they already rescued everyone who was in danger.” 

The man went under.  He disappeared below the dirty, gray surface.  Welk set his camera aside and told the pilot to take him down. Then, he jumped. Welk jumped from the helicopter into the Sepulveda basin and grabbed the man.

The pilot filled the copter around and personally picked up the rescue team.

But LA wasn’t done with him yet.  The currents crashed and thrashed them, while Welk attempted to keep himself and the man attached to his body alive. 

“It was one of the biggest struggles I have ever experienced.  It was unreal, like I was in a dream and survival mode just kicked in. If my pilot hadn’t flipped around and picked up the rescue team I would have died.”
Welk was a hero.  He risked his own life to save another.  He went into LA’s battlefield, outsmarted his brutal boss that gave him everything nature’s got and prevailed, survived, passed the test.  This drive has given Welk the courage to combat LA’s temperament every day since then.  He has covered fire storms, traffic, bank robbery shootings, and car chases, all results of LA’s insanity and has come out alive, on top and with the best story LA could have produced. 

-- Elise Fornaca
 Photo by Mark Luethi via the LAist Featured Photos 


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