Omaha TV Photojournalist Killed By Car While Shooting Highway Accident Story

Jun 11, 2004

Jeff Frolio, 45, a photojournalist for KETV NewsWatch 7 in Omaha, NE, was killed on the job Thursday June 10 when he struck by car while he was working on a news story at a highway intersection where two Nebraska teenagers were killed in May. Police said Frolio was struck by a westbound car as he crossed Center Road. He was shooting a story on a memorial scene that has been established at the previous accident's site. The photojournalist was evacuated by a medical rescue helicopter to Creighton University Medical Center where he died soon after arrival.

Frolio is survived by his wife, Marianne, and three children: Nicki, 18; David, 15; and Carly, 8.

[Killed by Car: Photojournalist Jeff Frolio, 45, a photojournalist for KETV in Omaha, NE, was killed when he was hit by a car while covering the scene of a previous fatal accident. Photograph provided by KETV.]

The veteran photojournalist was on the highway covering a story about two Elkhorn, NE, teens, both 15-years-old, who died at the intersection May 4 in a two-car accident. A memorial of flowers, crosses, and flags has been set up on one side of the road. Sheriff Dunning told the AP that the accident site is near the top of a hill and heavily traveled, especially at that time of day.

"I hired Jeff in April 1984 from Sioux Falls," KETV chief photographer Scott Buer remembers on the morning after Frolio's death. "He was coming back home to Omaha, and I remember being really happy to get him. He was talented, and he wanted to stay here, and his family was all here. Whenever you get a guy like Jeff, it's a real blessing. And he just hit the ground running."

Police told the Omaha World-Herald that the driver of the car that struck Frolio, a 45-year-old woman from Fremont, NE, says that she didn't see Frolio until after the 5 p.m. accident, when she saw him in her rear-view mirror after he was hit. Investigators said that neither speed nor alcohol is believed to be a factor in the accident, and they do not anticipate filing charges. The driver's name was not released.

"Jeff was extremely careful," Buer said, "so we're all shocked. The satellite truck was out there parked about fifty yards away. The reporter and the engineer were in the truck. Jeff was editing, looking at the story, and it was about 20 minutes until air. Jeff told them, 'I can do better than this,' and decided to go out and do two more shots. They were going to do a live report and use some file, but Jeff told them, 'I'm going to get some fresh stuff on this.'" Frolio was going to jog over and get two shots, and jog back to the truck.

Buer said Frolio got out of the satellite truck and had about fifty yards to go to the memorial site. "The reporter and engineer waited, and then after five or six minutes they wondered, 'Where's Jeff?' so they looked out of the truck and saw the car that had hit him was stopped, and Jeff and a woman were down on the side of the road," Buer said. "At first they thought Jeff was helping the woman, but then they realized what was happening."

Frolio twice won the Nebraska Photographer of the Year award, and had been with KETV since 1984. Before that he worked for KSFY-TV in Sioux Falls, SD. KETV reports on their Web site that Frolio "has played a key role in coverage of almost every major local story since he joined the station," and that his work locker displays a quote from photographer Richard Avedon: "There's no such thing as objectivity. The minute you pick up the camera, you begin to lie -- or to tell your own truth. It's not the camera that makes a good picture, but the eye and mind of the photographer."

KETV reports that Frolio grew up in the Florence neighborhood of Omaha and has deep family roots there. He graduated from North High School and the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He was a writer and actor and in May had performed with the Florentine Players, KETV reports, in a melodramatic play that he wrote in which he appeared as a villain. KETV says that Frolio wrote and produced plays for the group each year.

Buer said, "So many of us, our lives are just consumed by the job. Jeff was an extremely balanced person. He didn't allow the job to consume him. He was a talented musician; He played the keyboard and sang. He could cover any Beatles tune. He liked rock and roll, especially Boston, and Genesis. And he was an actor and a scriptwriter. He played the best villains, oiling back his black hair and putting on one of those pencil mustaches. He was a talented comedic writer."

"Words of sorrow always seem so empty, but I'm sorry for the loss of a great husband and father, for the loss of a long-time member of the KETV family, and for the loss of a great photojournalist," said Ray Meints, of Nebraska Educational TV. Meints is also NPPA Region 9 Director.

"I can tell you something about Jeff that will let you know what kind of person he was to work with," Buer said. "He got frustrated looking for file video early in his career, so he started his own file archive that was accessible to the entire staff. We called it 'The Fro File' because his nickname was 'The Fro Man.' No one pronounced Frolio right, so he became 'Fro.' The archive has more than 200 tapes that he compiled in the twenty years he's been here. He carefully, meticulously archived images when he saw good stuff on the air. He would go to the photographer and say, 'I need your field tape,' and then he'd go through it and get the good original sound and images and archive the good stuff."

Frolio was the second TV photojournalist killed on the job this week in the States. On Tuesday, June 8, Matthew Moore, 23, of KBTX-TV in Bryan/College Station, TX, was killed when the mast of the microwave truck he was operating touched overhead electrical wires in Hearne, TX. Moore had been with the station for a little more than a year after graduating with a journalism degree from Texas A&M University.