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NBC 5 sportscaster Daryl Hawks found dead in Atlanta at age 38

NBC Chicago Daryl Hawks

NBC Chicago Daryl Hawks

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Updated: June 14, 2011 12:32AM

In an eerie deja-vu, the sudden death of another black male lead sports anchor for WMAQ-Channel 5 has left officials and staff at the NBC-owned news station reeling.

Sports anchor Daryl Hawks, who joined Channel 5 in July 2008, was found dead Thursday in his hotel room in Atlanta, where he had gone to cover Thursday night’s Game 6 of the Bulls-Hawks NBA playoff series.

Hawks, of River Forest, was 38 — only a year older than the late NBC5 sports anchor Darrian Chapman, who had been at the station only 16 months when in October 2002 he collapsed and died suddenly while playing a game of hockey.

“We are all stunned right now,” Frank Whittaker, NBC5’s Station Manager and Vice President of News, said. “Daryl was a great member of our sports team, and was so excited about covering the Bulls during this playoff run.”

Hawks leaves behind a wife, Sandy, their children ages 5 and 2, and a teenage son from a previous relationship.

Hotel employees found Hawks unresponsive in his room at about 9:30 a.m. Thursday, according to the news station.

Hawks was rushed to Emory University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:48 a.m.

“It’s surreal,” said CBS2 lead sports anchor Ryan Baker, who joined NBC5 as an anchor/reporter less than a year after Chapman’s death, and was replaced by Hawks after leaving for CBS in April 2008.

“Daryl and I flew down to Atlanta on the same flight Wednesday. We laughed and talked and he seemed fine. When we landed around 5 p.m., I said, ‘Maybe I’ll see you a little later,’” said Baker. “This morning, we were all here for the Bulls’ shoot-around, and after my interviews, I asked everyone, ‘Where’s Daryl?’ No one had seen him.”

When Baker returned to his hotel, he got the shocking news from the WMAQ photographer on assignment with Hawks.

The photographer had asked security at the Omni Hotel inside the CNN Center where Hawks was staying to check on the sportscaster, after Hawks missed a wake-up call.

“I thought of his wife and children, and the folks at NBC5, who I had seen still dealing with the aftermath of Darrian’s death when I first got there. For them to have to deal with this again? Unbelievable. And it’s just eerie that Darrian and Daryl were of similar age, background and stages in life, same young families...,” Baker said.

Chapman died of a heart attack as a result of cardiac sarcoidosis. Hawks’ death remained under investigation by the Fulton County medical examiner’s office.

Friends and colleagues noted he was the picture of health, a former Marine and running back who briefly played semipro football with the Lockport (N.Y.) Invaders, and regularly played tackle football, basketball and golf.

“I work out everyday, other than spending time with my family, it’s what I love doing most,” Hawks wrote in his NBC5 biography.

A spokesman for Atlanta police, however, said they had no reason to believe foul play was involved.

Before Channel 5, Hawks worked at NBC sister stations KNTV-TV in San Francisco/San Jose and WNCN-TV in Raleigh, N.C. Previously, he worked at WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, Fla. and KESQ-TV and KMIR-TV in Palm Springs, Cal.

Sports reporter Peggy Kusinski, who has worked at NBC5 since 2000, was driving to work when she got the call.

“My first reaction was, ‘I’ve gotten this call before.’ I can’t believe we’re facing this again,” she said. “All I could think of was Daryl’s wife. She was going to get this call. I got to her house just as she got the news.”

Reporter/Anchor Paula Faris, who joined the station in 2005, was close with Hawks. They often hung out with their spouses, and their children who are so close in age that Hawks would give Faris his kids’ outgrown clothing.

“You’d be hard pressed to find a father as loving and involved and as passionate about family as Daryl was,” said a tearful Faris. “He lived for those children. And his wife was his soul mate, they were deeply in love. He was also close to his mom. She watched every show over the Internet. They talked daily, and she’d give him feedback.”

Hawks, a three-time Emmy Award winner, was a native of Buffalo, N.Y. and graduate of Buffalo State College.

He had been honored for his charitable work by such groups as the 100 Black Men Association and the NAACP, and his bio states he was a “proud member” of Junior Achievement and the National Association of Black Journalists.

“NABJ-Chicago is tremendously saddened,” Kyra Kyles, president of that latter group, said. “Daryl was very much involved in the cause of adding diversity to newsrooms, and was willing to lend a helping hand to young, emerging professionals. We had the honor of celebrating the holidays with him and his wife at our annual scholarship fundraiser. Our hearts go out to his family at this time.”

By Thursday afternoon, a Facebook page had been set up to share condolences:


Contributing: Stella Foster, AP

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