Published: April 20, 2011
BENGHAZI, Libya — Tim Hetherington, the conflict photographer who was a director and producer of the Afghan war documentary “Restrepo,” was killed in the besieged city of Misurata on Wednesday, and three photographers working beside him were wounded, one fatally, when they came under fire at the city’s front lines.
Chris Hondros of the Getty Images photo agency died within a few hours of devastating brain trauma. A third photographer, Guy Martin, suffered a severe pelvic wound, according to Andre Liohn, a colleague who was at the triage center where the photographers were rushed by rebels after they were struck.
Mr. Hondros suffered an extensive loss of brain tissue and was revived twice. He spent several hours in a coma and died after 10 p.m., Mr. Liohn said.
Mr. Martin, a British citizen, underwent vascular surgery on Wednesday night, according to the same account. As the night progressed, Mr. Liohn said that Mr. Martin’s bleeding had been stopped and that his prospects had improved.
The fourth photographer, Michael Christopher Brown, suffered shrapnel wounds to his left shoulder, but his life was not in danger. He was resting Wednesday night.
Misurata, Libya’s third-largest city, has been cut off by land from the rest of the country by military forces loyal to Col.Muammar el-Qaddafi. It has been the scene of intensive, close-quarters fighting for weeks. Hundreds of Libyans have been confirmed killed.
Two other journalists were killed last month in the Libyan conflict, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists:Mohammed al-Nabbous, the founder of the online Libya Alhurra TV, who was shot as he was streaming audio reports of the fighting in Benghazi, the rebel capital; andAli Hassan al-Jaber, an cameraman with Al Jazeera who was shot when his crew was ambushed near Benghazi.
The photographers killed and wounded Wednesday had reached the city by sea from Benghazi. The early reports said they had been working together near the front lines when they were struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. Mr. Liohn said they were covering the rebels on Tripoli Street, one of the city’s main battlegrounds. It was not immediately clear how Mr. Martin and Mr. Brown might be evacuated.
The Ionian Spirit, a vessel chartered by the International Organization for Migration, was in port in Misurata to evacuate migrant workers, having just completed a third relief trip from Benghazi.
Human Rights Watch, a New York-based organization whose staff members know the photographers, contacted the vessel and found that it was prepared to evacuate the two wounded photographers back to Benghazi. But Mr. Martin was not deemed fit for travel, especially on a voyage that could last 20 or more hours.
Arrangements were being made late at night to move Mr. Hetherington’s remains to the vessel for the journey to Benghazi, to be carried by air back home.
The prospects for moving Mr. Hondros’s remains were not certain, as he died later in the night. Human Rights Watch said it had asked the Ionian Spirit’s commander to accept Mr. Hondros’s remains, too.
The death of Mr. Hetherington reverberated in many circles, including among the journalists, aid workers, soldiers and victims of war he had befriended in a distinguished career. A British citizen who lived in New York, he had covered conflicts with sensitivity in Liberia, Afghanistan, Darfur and, in recent weeks, Libya.
“This is a devastating loss to many of us personally,” said Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch. “But it is also a devastating loss to the human rights community. His work has raised the visibility of many of the world’s forgotten conflicts. May the legacy of his exceptional photographs serve to inspire future generations.”
His family released a brief statement: “Tim was in Libya to continue his ongoing multimedia project to highlight humanitarian issues during time of war and conflict. He will be forever missed.”
As the vigil ended for Mr. Hondros, his friends expressed pain, grief and respect for him and his body of work, built over a career of two decades. Tyler Hicks, a photographer for The New York Times who worked alongside Mr. Hondros in several wars, paid a tribute in an e-mail.
“Chris made sacrifices in his own life to bring the hardships of war into the public eye, and that dedication created award-winning photographs that shaped the way people viewed the world,” he wrote. “He was a close friend for nearly 20 years. The tragedy of his death had brought so many memories to the surface, and I’m grateful to be among the many people who were lucky enough to know him. He will be missed.”
Mr. Martin had sent his work to Panos Pictures, a photo agency in London, said Josh Lustig, an editor there, but no clients had been formally lined up.
“We’re all praying that he pulls through,” Mr. Lustig said
The Libyan conflict has proved deeply perilous for journalists, both local and foreign. Besides the four who have been killed, the Committee to Protect Journalists has counted 49 detentions. Among them are Clare Morgana Gillis, an American freelancer forTheAtlantic.com and USA Today; James Wright Foley, an American writer for GlobalPost; Manuel Varela de Seijas Brabo, a Spanish photographer; and Anton Lazarus Hammerl, a South African photographer. At least six local journalists are missing amid speculation they are in the custody of security forces.
One international journalist and two media support workers are also unaccounted for. Mr. Hetherington, 41, was between assignments at Vanity Fair when he was killed. He had traveled to Libya on his own to work on a multimedia project while he and his editors in New York tried to figure out what his next series of photos for the magazine would be.
Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair’s editor, said the sudden death had left the staff stunned. “Another two or three days and he’d probably have had the assignment,” Mr. Carter said. “We’re just devastated here. But he lived for this.”
“It’s what gave him life,” he said, “and it’s what took it away from him.”
Mr. Hetherington last contacted his editors on Tuesday, by e-mail. “Am currently in misrata — would have made interesting article with SJ,” he wrote. SJ referred to his friend and fellow Vanity Fair contributor Sebastian Junger. The two had chronicled the Afghan war for the magazine, and were partners on “Restrepo,” which followed a company of American soldiers from May 2007 to July 2008 in the Korangal Valley, a particularly dangerous part of northeastern Afghanistan.
Mr. Hetherington had posted rarely on Twitter this year, but on Tuesday, he sent this from his iPhone: “In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.”