Feb. 6, 2008 — -- John McWethy, a longtime national security correspondent -- who, ABC News president David Westin said, "represented the very best of ABC News" -- has died at age 60 after a skiing accident in Keystone, Colo.
McWethy died of blunt force chest injuries after witnesses said he missed a turn on an intermediate trail this morning, and slid chest-first into a tree, Summit County, Colo., coroner Joanne Richardson told The Associated Press. McWethy was pronounced dead at 2:05 p.m., Richardson said.
McWethy had recently moved to Boulder, Colo., with his wife Laurie Duncan-McWethy to enjoy retirement close to ski slopes and golf courses, Westin said in a statement to ABC News staff.
"He was doing something that he truly loved, but he deserved many more years doing it than he was given," Westin said.
"He was one of those very rare reporters who knew his beat better than anyone, and had developed more sources than anyone, and yet, kept his objectivity," Westin added. "Jack's work made the people he covered value him, respect him, and always know that he would keep them honest. None of us will forget his memorable reporting on Sept. 11, 2001, when he had to evacuate the Pentagon, and then continued to report live from the lawn nearby.
"I wish all of you could have been there for his 'retirement' party to see the highest levels of the Pentagon — civilian and military — come to express their respect and affection for Jack," Westin said. "But as fine a reporter as he was, he was just that fine a man. There was an essential goodness to him that permeated everything he did. He loved his profession, but he loved his family more. And he always had a powerful sense of need to help those around him."
McWethy and his wife had two children, Adam and Ian.
Before his retirement, McWethy was ABC News' chief national security correspondent, a position he held starting in1984.
McWethy reported on military and diplomatic aspects of U.S. foreign policy, primarily from the Pentagon in Washington. In addition to his daily coverage for "World News Tonight With Peter Jennings," he also filed stories for "Nightline," "Good Morning America" and other ABC News broadcasts.
McWethy was at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, when the building was struck by an American Airlines passenger plane. He was heavily involved in ABC News coverage of the aftermath, which included the U.S. war on terrorism, and the war in Afghanistan. McWethy went to Tora Bora in Afghanistan, traveling with U.S. special operations teams there, as the hunt for Osama bin Laden continued.
McWethy's assignments included coverage of the air war over Kosovo, tensions in the Persian Gulf and in North Korea, and the India-Pakistan conflict. He spent months in Bosnia before and after American troops arrived, and visited Liberia during the worst of the fighting, when the U.S. embassy was under siege. His assignments also included reports from Haiti, Somalia, Mozambique, Russia and the Middle East.
For more than a decade, McWethy was ABC News' primary correspondent covering secretaries of state James Baker, George Shultz, Warren Christopher and Lawrence Eagleburger. He traveled to more than 50 countries, covering the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the rise of the new nations that replaced it.
Though much of McWethy's focus was on national security and diplomacy, his stories also touched upon terrorism, espionage and intelligence matters. He was heavily involved in coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing, and twice traveled to Antarctica.
McWethy reported on all five historic meetings between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. He covered the Iran-Contra affair, and, from Washington, the U.S. invasions of Grenada and Panama, and Israel's invasion of Lebanon.
McWethy joined ABC News in 1979 as chief Pentagon correspondent, covering the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
McWethy received at least five national Emmy Awards for his participation in "World News Tonight" coverage of Sept. 11, 2001, ABC News' millennium coverage, and individual reporting on Ross Perot, the Persian Gulf War, and the Soviet military. He also received an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award, an Overseas Press Club Award and other honors. In 2002, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from DePauw University in Indiana.
From 1973 to 1979, McWethy was a reporter for U.S. News & World Report, the last two years as chief White House correspondent. He joined U.S. News as science and technology editor. McWethy began his career in journalism at Congressional Quarterly.
A graduate of DePauw University, McWethy held a master's degree from Columbia University's School of Journalism.