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Photographers Hetherington, Hondros Killed In Libya


Two celebrated photojournalists, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, are now victims of that conflict. They were among a small group of the journalists who had reached the besieged city of Misrata by boat. Today, Hetherington and Hondros were killed during heavy fighting between pro-and anti-Gadhafi forces.

They were rushed to the hospital, and James Hider was there. He's the Middle East correspondent for The Times of London. When we spoke to James Hider, Hetherington had already died and Hondros was in grave condition. Hider told us what happened today.

Mr. JAMES HIDER (Correspondent, The Times of London): Well, I had been on the front line about a mile from where Tim and the others were filming and shooting pictures. And we had just come back, and we'd gone to the Hikmah Hospital, and an ambulance pulled up. And an American woman, a photographer, came out, she had lots of blood on her. And she was shouting, we have to go back. Tim and Chris have been hit. And she was talking about Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, an American photographer for Getty.

And within a couple of minutes, another ambulance came in and had Tim and a British freelance photographer called Guy Martin. Guy was still conscious and talking. He had a stomach wound. Tim had lost a lot of blood and was clearly in shock, and they were trying to resuscitate him. And Tim died within a few minutes.

NORRIS: Do you know anything about the attack?

Mr. HIDER: There was a Libyan official from the Benghazi Media Center who was with them. He said it was a mortar round that landed on them. And certainly, the injuries seem to be consistent with a mortar round, possibly a rocket-propelled grenade.

NORRIS: What kind of condition is Chris Hondros in right now?

Mr. HIDER: Extremely serious. He was hit in the head by shrapnel from the mortar, and the doctors are basically struggling to keep him alive. He's on life support machine. It will be an extremely serious condition in a normal city. But in a city where there's no evacuation, where the facilities are already overloaded, the doctors just aren't experienced in this kind of massive trauma. The people you see treating head trauma are oncologist, they're pediatric surgeons, people who just don't have the kind of experience. So his condition is extremely grave.

NORRIS: This has to have been a very difficult day for you. These are people that you know, that you work with. How have the journalists that are working in Libya, particularly those that are there in Misrata right now, how have they been dealing with this?

Mr. HIDER: Well, there's not many of us in Misrata, so we're quite close to each other. And, in fact, we all came in on the same ship on Saturday. And, in fact, we were asked to make sandwiches for the thousand refugees going back. And, in fact, I was standing next to Tim making these cheese sandwiches with him. He was joking about, you know, the sandwich slavery on a slow boat to Misrata, and we were all sort of joking and laughing about. And just, you know, in shock, really.

NORRIS: That was James Hider. He's the Middle East correspondent for The Times of London. He was speaking to us from Misrata.

Last year, I spoke to Tim Hetherington about a documentary he co-directed with Sebastian Junger. It's called "Restrepo," and it was nominated for an Oscar.

Hetherington made the film while he was embedded with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. And during the interview, he shared an anecdote about the death of one soldier and how another soldier was very disturbed because Hetherington had kept filming.

Later, that soldier apologized, and so did Tim Hetherington.

(Soundbite of archived broadcast)

Mr. TIM HETHERINGTON (Director, "Restrepo"): I just said, listen, I'm really sorry. I'm just in default. I'm in shock. I just go into default mode, which is just to carry on filming, almost like the camera protects me.

And in some ways, it's the same thing as soldiers. I think you're in a state of shock and you can't react - you know, you bury these things deep inside of yourself that - and one day later, you have to kind of face up to those events.

NORRIS: What kind of role do you want this film to have in the larger public discussion about the war?

Mr. HETHERINGTON: Sebastian and I set out to make a film from the kind of soldier's view level of the war. So regardless of your politics, whether you agree with the war or not, you will come to the film and see and digest what these men go through, and to understand that experience as a starting point for a discussion about the war.

We hope that the film is a keyhole through which this country can start to understand what is happening out there.

NORRIS: That was photographer and filmmaker Tim Hetherington speaking with us last summer about his documentary called "Restrepo." He was killed today in Misrata, Libya.

Another photojournalist, Chris Hondros of Getty Images, was also killed. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.