J. Christopher ‘Chip’ Tayag, news station helicopter pilot from Towson, dies

J. Christopher "Chip" Tayag, pictured in 2022 with his great-grandnephew Kolbe Reddinger, joined North Carolina-based news station WBTV in 2017.

J. Christopher “Chip” Tayag, a South Carolina helicopter pilot who grew up in Baltimore County, died Nov. 22 in a helicopter crash along a North Carolina interstate. He was 57.

Born in Towson, he was the son of Dr. Diadema Simon, an internal medicine physician, and the late Dr. Balbino Z. Tayag Jr., an abdominal surgeon. His parents met in the United States after immigrating separately in the 1960s from the Philippines, where they had studied at the same medical school.


He graduated from Calvert Hall College High School in 1984 and earned an associate degree from Essex Community College, now known as Community College of Baltimore County Essex.

Originally the youngest of four siblings, he gained two older brothers after his father’s death, when his mother married widower Dr. Edilberto Beltran in 1972.

J. Christopher "Chip" Tayag, with niece Henley Tayag, was active in his parish, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, in Indian Land, South Carolina,

Mr. Tayag developed an early interest in remote control airplanes, said his brother Tristan Tayag of Fort Worth, Texas. He learned to build his own planes and flew them with a group of retired men.

He later worked an IT job where his office overlooked a hospital helipad, spurring a new dream of becoming a helicopter pilot. He earned his pilot’s license and eventually worked as a tour guide for Helicopter Adventures in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for three years, according to a family obituary.

Mr. Tayag joined Charlotte, North Carolina-based news station WBTV in 2017. He was flying with WBTV meteorologist Jason Myers when both died in a crash Nov. 22. Police praised Mr. Tayag as a “hero” for avoiding the highway as the helicopter fell, sparing other vehicles.

As a teenager, Mr. Tayag became certified in scuba diving with his stepfather. An avid biker, he had a black belt in karate and loved fishing on his boat, a 14-foot Boston Whaler called “Fish n Chip.” When his family water-skied off Ocean City, he was one of the few who could stand on up one ski, his brother said.

J. Christopher "Chip" Tayag, with his mother, Dr. Diadema “Di” Simon-Beltran, graduated from Calvert Hall College High School and what was then Essex Community College.

“Chip has always been kind of adventurous,” his brother said.

After a drunken driver hit Mr. Tayag on a Saturday morning motorcycle ride in 1994 and his leg was nearly amputated, that adventurous spirit became tempered by a good dose of caution.

“He was the safest driver I know because of this accident,” his brother said. “He was very professional in the helicopter and was very focused on safety.”

Martin Engle, a classmate from the class of 1984, said Calvert Hall alumni shared their shock over Mr. Tayag’s death at an annual homecoming event the night before Thanksgiving.


“He was quiet and didn’t like much attention to himself but he was determined to pursue the things he liked,” said Mr. Engle, who also attended college with Mr. Tayag. “He was a goodhearted guy and he would do anything for you.”

Mr. Tayag was active in his parish, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, in Indian Land, South Carolina, where he married his wife, Kerry, in 2019. Relatives described him as generous and easygoing, someone who embodied his Catholic faith.

Tito Beltran, from left, Tristan Tayag, J. Christopher "Chip" Tayag and Rick Beltran are pictured at Tristan Tayag's wedding in 2002.

A stepfather to two children and a beloved uncle to his 14 nieces and nephews, Mr. Tayag was also chosen as a godfather for some of his siblings’ children.

“You want to pick somebody who is really strong in his faith,” his brother said. “I’m older than he is, but I learned a lot from him.”

He is survived by his wife, Kerry Tayag; a stepdaughter, Elizabeth Walker; a stepson Jonathan Walker (Emily Walker); his mother, Dr. Diadema “Di” Simon-Beltran; his stepfather, Dr. Edilberto Beltran; five siblings: Rowena Crist (Michael Crist), Carene Giannico (Mike Giannico), Tristan Tayag (Jennifer Tayag), Tito Beltran (Vicki Beltran) and Rick Beltran (Cara Beltran); 14 nieces and nephews; and 11 grandnieces and grandnephews.

A burial Mass will be held Saturday at noon at Immaculate Conception Church at 200 Ware Ave. in Towson.