Skycam: Insight Bowl Fiasco Caused by ‘Detached Bolt Assembly’; Additional Safety Measures Are Implemented

The sky fell down on the Iowa Hawkeyes football team last Friday when a Skycam that was part of ESPN’s camera complement collapsed onto the field at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, AZ. The potentially disastrous event was determined to be “the result of a detached bolt assembly, where a fastener came apart from a bolt on a corner of the Skycam housing,” according to a spokesperson for Skycam, the manufacturer and operator of the wire-suspended aerial camera system.

Although the collapse caused no serious injuries, the free-falling camera nearly hit Iowa receiver Marvin McNutt Jr. as he was standing in the team huddle. McNutt then became tangled in the guide wire and sustained a minor cut on his arm. The incident occurred with 2:22 left in Iowa’s 31-14 Insight Bowl loss to Oklahoma. Play was suspended for several minutes while the camera and wires were removed from the field.

Skycam grounded all its systems while it investigated the issue. When the issue was identified as a detached bolt assembly, the Oklahoma-based company inspected all Skycam systems and “found no failures or weaknesses that would contribute to another incident of this nature.”

Also, prior to the next bowl-game deployments, Skycam installed redundant bolt assemblies and a secondary restraint system as additional safety measures. The vendor also reviewed and updated its inspection and emergency procedures, which were immediately put in place for all future productions.

In a statement, Skycam said, “We apologize for the accident and have conducted a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the problem … We regret the incident and are confident the steps we are taking have corrected the problem and have provided an added layer of security to our systems.”

Although Skycam says it has already communicated its findings and additional redundancies to its television-network partners, as well as to the NFL, several clients remain concerned about the incident.

CBS Sports, which uses Skycam, CableCam, and ActionCam aerial camera systems, is scheduled to deploy Skycam in two productions during its coverage of the upcoming NFL Playoffs.

“We are all very concerned, and I was communicating with Skycam the next morning [after the incident],” says Ken Aagaard, EVP, Operations, Engineering, and Production Services, for CBS Sports. “We have to give Skycam time to prove to us that they have fixed the ‘safety’ portion of how they work. Right now, during the playoffs, we are scheduled to use ActionCam twice and Skycam twice. We will see.  We continue to discuss with all parties.”

ESPN has pledged to continue using Skycams at each of the five remaining games on its college-bowl schedule. However, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on Monday did not feature a Skycam system because of the Arizona Cardinals’ home finale the day before.

“After a thorough review, the cause of the crash has been isolated and addressed,” said an ESPN statement. “Extra precautions will be taken as the regular schedule is resumed for remaining bowl games.”

“After a thorough review, the cause of the crash has been isolated and addressed,” said an ESPN statement. “Extra precautions will be taken as the regular schedule is resumed for remaining bowl games.”