by Donald R. Winslow Copyright 2011 News Photographer magazine
MISRATA, LIBYA (April 20, 2011) - Academy Award-nominated photojournalist Tim Hetherington, 40, and Pulitzer Prize-nominated photojournalist Chris Hondros, 41, of Getty Images were killed today when they were hit during a mortar and grenade attack in Misrata, Libya, journalists on the scene told News Photographer magazine today.
A contributing photographer for Vanity Fair, Hetherington died shortly after arriving at hospital in Misrata. Hondros clung to life for several hours in a coma before he died from what Italian doctors said was an irreversible brain trauma. Reports are Hondros was revived at least two times, but Getty Images has now confirmed his death at Hikma Hospital after rumors of his passing circulated in the States for several hours.
'Diary' is a highly personal and experimental film that expresses the subjective experience of my work, and was made as an attempt to locate myself after ten years of reporting. It's a kaleidoscope of images that link our western reality to the seemingly distant worlds we see in the media - Tim Hetherington
Two other photojournalists, Michael Christopher Brown of Corbis and Guy Martin of Panos Pictures, were wounded. Andre Liohn in Misrata now reports that Martin has come out of surgery and his condition is listed as stable, and Brown is having shrapnel removed from his left shoulder in surgery and doctors said he is stable and will recover.
Ned Parker of the Los Angeles Times reports from inside Misrata that most of the city is held by rebels and that the journalists today had been near the front lines covering rebels who were trying to oust snipers. They were apparently walking back to more secure territory when they were hit by the attack.
Freelance photographer Guillermo Cervera told Parker they were trying to get to a safe place and he was a few yards away from the others at the time of the blast. "I heard the whoosh of an explosion and everybody was on the ground," he told Parker.
Several rebel fighters and a Ukrainian doctor were also killed in the shelling, according to reports.
Washington Post reporter Leila Fadel says that Hetherington and Hondros had gone with rebel fighters to Tripoli Street when Libyan forces pounded the street with mortars Wednesday morning. They may have also been struck by a rocket propelled grenade while working near the front line in Misrata, one of their peers said.
Post reporter Fadel said Hetherington was bleeding heavily from a leg when brought into the medical triage and about 15 minutes later was pronounced dead. She says about 10 minutes later Hondros arrived by ambulance with a severe head injury. Fadel reported to the Post that doctors said Hondros had a shrapnel wound in the forehead that passed through the back of his head. She said doctors looking at scans of his wounds asked her to hold his helmet, which he had apparently been wearing at the time.
"When he accompanied our colleague, photographer Joe Raedle, home from captivity in Libya a few weeks ago," Klein wrote, "he sat with me and told me in no uncertain terms that he had to cover the stories and take the pictures — so that the world could know what was really happening and could act to prevent more human suffering."
As can be imagined, conflicting and confusing reports were flying out of the war zone as to their fate.
The LENS blog in The New York Times has photographs Hondros shot earlier today before he was mortally wounded. The photographs show Hondros was covering rebels as they tried to dislodge Libyan government troops who were holed-up in a building in Misrata, shooting down stairwells and around corners into rooms and rolling a burning tire into a room where they suspected Libyan soldiers were hiding.
Italian photojournalist Franco Pagetti of VII Photos in Milan talked with his good friend Hetherington only this morning, shortly before they went out to cover today's fighting. Pagetti was scheduled to join Hetherington and Hondros in Libya this coming Friday, he told News Photographer magazine this afternoon. Understandably upset and shocked by the news, Pagetti could only say that Hetherington this morning had asked him to bring in some fresh supplies.
The bodies of Hondros and Hetherington are now on a humanitarian relief ship, the Ionian Sprit, which sailed from Misrata tonight for Benghazi. CJ Chivers of The New York Times reports that Hetherington's body was aready on the vessel when Hondros died, and frantic efforts by photojournalist Andre Liohn and others resulted in getting Hondros's body on board shortly before the ship left the port.
Misrata has been cut off by land for weeks as rebels battle Libyan forces, and hundreds of Libyans have been killed in fighting there in recent days. The photographers had traveled to Misrata by sea from Benghazi, the rebel capital.
News of today's tragedy spread quickly after photojournalist Liohn posted on Facebook from the medical center that Hetherington had died and Hondros was in serious condition. Soon after he also posted, "Chris Hondros has died now." That report from Liohn conflicted with a later dispatch that said Hondros had been revived but was critically wounded in the head and clinging to life.
Late today Getty released the following statement: "Chris never shied away from the front line having covered the world's major conflicts throughout his distinguished career and his work in Libya was no exception. We are working to support his family and his fiancée as they receive this difficult news, and are preparing to bring Chris back to his family and friends in the United States. He will be sorely missed."
Hondros was a Pulitzer Prize-nominated photojournalist who studied at North Carolina State and received a masters degree from Ohio University's School of Visual Communication (VisCom). In 2006 he was awarded the Robert Capa Gold Medal for his photographic essay, "One Night In Tal Afar."
Several years ago Hondros made a photograph that became very well known and was recognized by some of photojournalism's top annual contests. The iconic image was of Liberian militia commander Joseph Duo rejoicing after firing a rocket-propelled grenade at rebel forces during fierce fighting in Monrovia in July 2003.
In November 2005, Hondros wrote about the photograph and his reunion with Duo in a Dispatch published by Dirck Halstead's Digital Journalist, where Hondros was a frequent contributor. The photojournalist described going back to West Africa to find Duo, and how their relationship grew and resulted in Hondros enrolling and paying for Duo to go back to school and complete his education.
At Ohio University today, VisCom director Terry Eiler was trying to teach class while at the same time trying to keep track of developments in Libya for two of his former students, Hondros and Brown. Hondros came to OU in 1995 and Brown in 2001. Hondros just recently finished his masters at OU, in 2006.
"What I remember the most about Chris is his willingness to take on projects that risked failure," Eiler told News Photographer today. "Whether it was short term stories or long term projects, he was fearless in his willingness to take a chance. I don't mean to say he was reckless, he wasn't. What I mean is that he was willing to take on tough assignments and the journalist in him was both a challenge and a delight to deal with. He had the ability to make photographs of people and events with candid accuracy, really exceptional. He was not afraid to change lenses, to take a different angle if it helped to tell a better story."
"And another thing I remember about Chris is that he was fun to sit down with for a cup of coffee, something you can't say about all graduate students," Eiler said.
Hetherington, a contributing photographer for Vanity Fair, was nominated for an Oscar this year for his war documentary "Restrepo," which he co-directed. It chronicled a U.S. Army unit's battles in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.
He was in Libya working on an ongoing multimedia project about humanitarian issues during times of war and conflict, his family said today in a statement released to Vanity Fair magazine.
"Tim will be remembered for his amazing images and his Academy Award-nominated film 'Restrepo,' which he co-produced with his friend Sebastian Junger. He will be forever missed," the family statement said.
Yesterday Hetherington Tweeted, "In beseiged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscrimate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO."