In a war zone like Ukraine, reporters take a lot of security precautions. But what if, despite everything, a colleague dies? “Welt TV” reporter Max Hermes saw a cameraman killed during a shoot – in a truck he was supposed to be in.

Ever since the war in Ukraine started three and a half months ago, it’s been on almost every news program. But this constant flow of information is only possible because reporters report from on site and sometimes risk their lives in the war zone. Journalist Max Hermes used to be with RTL and now reports for the television station “Welt TV”. In the 294th episode of the Daily Podcast “important today” he reports on a traumatic experience at the end of May. Max Hermes was in close proximity when a cameraman was fatally hit by a shrapnel during a shoot in the Donbass: “My cameraman could have been sitting here too.”

War in Ukraine: Cameraman died by shrapnel

“We had basically finished our shooting. […] At that moment, a smoking truck came, splinters could be seen in the windscreen,” reports Max Hermes in an interview with Mirjam Bittner. A bloodied policeman exits the truck, in the background lies a motionless person. It quickly turns out that it is a press colleague. French cameraman Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff was sitting in the front passenger seat and had just filmed when the car came under fire. Leclerc-Imhoff is hit by a shrapnel and dies. The colleagues sit in the back of the truck and have to watch everything. When the truck stops, everyone escapes to a nearby police station. There they only slowly grasp what happened, Hermes says hesitantly: “The French colleague and I lay in each other’s arms and cried.” Police later escorted the teams out of the area in an armored vehicle.

“French colleague and I hugged each other and cried”

Max Hermes hasn’t had much time to process everything. Almost immediately afterwards, he stood in front of the camera and reported live about what he had just experienced. Back in Germany, he would like to seek psychological counseling and is also supported by the publisher. Hermes has now realized one thing: “I’m a reporter in a war zone. There’s always a residual risk, you can’t guarantee 100% security.” Protective measures such as a helmet, a bulletproof vest and local security teams should minimize this residual risk as much as possible. Max Hermes is now back in Germany, but would like to return to the Ukraine and continue reporting on the war.

So far, eight media workers have been killed in Ukraine and at least 14 others injured, reports the organization Reporters Without Borders. The Ukrainian government is already talking about 32 dead colleagues.

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