A veteran gay meteorologist with the Weather Channel was killed Sunday when his car crashed into a Midtown Atlanta hotel and injured another person.
Nick Wiltgen, 39, died at the scene of the crash, which took place about 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Wiltgen's Volkswagen Eos 3.2 was traveling "at a very high rate of speed" before crashing into a wall of the Colony Square Mall parking garage near the intersection of Peachtree and 14th streets, according to Atlanta police.
The car went through the wall and about 20 feet into the adjacent W Atlanta-Midtown, where it hit a person in a storage area around 5:30 p.m., Atlanta police spokeswoman Kim Jones said. Authorities initially described the injured person as a hotel worker, but a W Atlanta spokeswoman clarified Monday that he was a member of an “independent production company.” He was treated for non-life threatening injuries, Jones said.
Witnesses “pulled the [driver] out of the car and attempted CPR,” fire department spokesman Cortez Stafford said, but their efforts were unsuccessful.
Police told Channel 2 Action News that Wiltgen had a heart attack. Fulton Medical Examiner’s Office investigator Mark Guilbeau told The AJC his office has not confirmed that yet.
Stafford, in a statement, said: “It has yet to be determined exactly what happened or why the male ran into the wall.”
Wiltgen worked at the Weather Channel, which is headquartered in metro Atlanta. The Midwest native and graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln joined the company in 2001 as a senior radio broadcast meteorologist, according to his LinkedIn profile. In May 2012, Wiltgen switched to the company's digital side and two years later was promoted to senior digital meteorologist where he led a team of meteorologists that produced content for weather.com and the Weather Channel's mobile platforms.
Wiltgen has been a member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.
The Weather Channel called Wiltgen "a treasured member" of its family in an email to employees. Via TV Newser:
It is with a heavy heart that we have to share some very sad news – we have lost a treasured member of The Weather Channel family. Nick Wiltgen, senior digital meteorologist and integral member of our content team, died last night in a car accident.
Nick was part of The Weather Channel family for more than 15 years. He joined Weather as a senior radio broadcast meteorologist in October 2001, where he stayed for almost 11 years, delivering on-air forecasts for our radio affiliates. He then moved to the digital side in May 2012, producing and delivering a wide range of weather- and nature-related content for our digital platforms. He was promoted to senior digital meteorologist in December 2014, where he led and supervised the digital met team. He was also a familiar face on air, appearing on The Weather Channel from time to time to discuss a story featured in a digital package.
At The Weather Channel, there are a lot of people who love weather. And Nick was certainly one of those, but Nick really loved this job because he cared about people. No one took the mission of keeping people safe from big storms more to heart than Nick. At all hours of the night and day, he would track weather in as many as eight languages. He would work around the clock to make sure we had the latest and most accurate updates to every event. And he would fight tooth and nail to make sure we did everything we could to explain the dangers of bad weather to our viewers.
Millions read his work every week. And were better for it. He was the beating heart of our digital weather team. And he will be deeply missed.
Nick was not only a dedicated, passionate member of our family, his Casey Kasem long-distance dedications, his love for ‘90s pop music and encyclopedic knowledge of Nebraska – and Japan – always made the digital team laugh. He never would admit it, but we knew he spent much of his free time learning languages. He could translate international weather bulletins without Google Translate. In short, he loved his job and made us better.
Many of you knew him well, and no doubt share our shock and sadness. As something like this can be extremely difficult to process, grief counselors will be available in Atlanta on the 2nd floor in the DCT/DVT Conference room from 1:30 – 5:30 p.m. today and from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. tomorrow. The Weather Channel Employee Assistance Program is also available to all our employees 24 hours a day, 7 days a week should you wish to speak with someone.
We will be sure to share details of Nick’s memorial once they are available. In the meantime, please keep Nick’s family in your thoughts and prayers.
Cameron, Neil and Patty
Gay blogger Rob Gutro wrote that Wiltgen's passion showed in his work.
"I (Rob) just learned that my friend Nick Wiltgen died yesterday in a car crash. Nick was a Weather Channel Radio broadcaster (where I knew him from) and was a young guy, just 39 years old. He was a great meteorologist who had a lot of passion and loved his family and his home state of Nebraska. He touched the lives of so many who were fortunate to know him from the Weather Channel. Nick was a great guy, always good to work with and always had a smile."
UPDATE | The Fulton County Medical Examiner ruled Wiltgen's death a suicide. Via the AJC:
Fulton Medical Examiner’s office investigators on Tuesday said the death had been ruled a suicide and Wiltgen died of head and brain trauma after the crash.