Stories behind coverage of Boston Marathon blasts

In a memo to staff, Senior Managing Editor for U.S. News Mike Oreskes recounts how photographer Charles Krupa, who covered his first Boston Marathon in 1986, pushed toward danger to capture one of the signature images of the April 15 bomb blasts. Oreskes also singles out other AP staffers near and far who contributed significantly to AP’s news report:

Even in the midst of the biggest stories, it is often the individual acts of journalistic determination that make all the difference. Charles Krupa, AP’s Boston Photographer, was in the pressroom finishing his coverage of the Boston Marathon when two deep booms resonated through the Copley Plaza hotel.

A security official announced that the hotel was in lockdown because of an explosion at the finish line, and that no one was allowed to leave.

But Krupa, knew he had to go.

He would run toward danger to fulfill his role as photojournalist, bringing back the gripping photo of a man, legs shattered by the explosion, being rushed from the scene in a wheelchair. It was one of the signature images of the bombings that transfixed the nation and brought Boston to a standstill for four days. For his professionalism and determination that awful afternoon Krupa wins this week’s Beat of The Week.

As guards started to lock the two marked exit doors, Krupa grabbed three cameras _ one with a 70-200mm zoom lens, one with a 300mm telephoto lens and the last one hurriedly attached with a 16-35mm zoom lens that would allow him to get up close to the subject. He put his laptop on his back and bolted for an unmarked, unlocked door he remembered near the race officials desk.

He crashed past three guards about to lock the next door, leading outside, and broke into the street.

He stopped, checked his cameras and ran toward the finish line on Boylston Street, half a block away.

It was there, in the panic and confusion, that he saw Jeffery Bauman being tended by a doctor, an emergency medical technician and a volunteer in a cowboy hat. “When I saw Bauman’s legs were gone, I knew whatever happened was bad,” Krupa said.


An emergency responder and volunteers, including Carlos Arredondo in the cowboy hat, push Jeff Bauman in a wheel chair after he was injured in an explosion near the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday, April 15, 2013 in Boston. At least three people were killed, including an 8-year-old boy, and more than 170 were wounded when two bombs blew up seconds apart. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The volunteer, his hands bloody from applying tourniquets to Bauman’s mangled legs above the knees, was hailed as a hero. Bauman woke up in the hospital and helped the FBI identify at least one of the bombing suspects who he said had looked him in the eye shortly before the bomb went off.

Krupa shot six or seven frames, and moved on to capture more images.

When a crew of Boston police officers saw him coming and made it clear he wasn’t getting through them, he doubled back to the finish line photo bridge, only to be blocked at the bottom of the staircase by another policeman. But then a race official whom Krupa has known for 25 years told the officer to let him pass. Krupa covered his first Boston Marathon in 1986.

From there, Krupa said, he could survey two scenes half a block apart: race officials, doctors and police helping the injured, ambulances being quickly loaded, and the sidewalks splattered with blood and broken glass.

After a few minutes, concerned about more possible bombs, police and officials cleared the area.

Krupa had been on Boylston Street about 8 minutes. He had shot about 250 frames.

He went back to the hotel but couldn’t get in, so he sat on the sidewalk, took out his laptop and filed about 25 images.

Those eight minutes were the first extraordinary individual effort of an extraordinary week, but hardly the last. If Krupa showed the world what happened, Washington newswoman Eileen Sullivan told how it happened and who authorities say did it, and Atlanta-based videojournalist Robert Ray got the only shot of the suspect being taken away in an ambulance. In between, New York photo editor Karly Domb Sadof plumbed social media for user-generated content that kept the photo report fresh all week.

Sullivan, the AP’s domestic counterterrorism reporter, broke two agenda-setting stories. The day after the bombing, she reported exclusively that the bombs were made in ordinary kitchen pressure cookers hidden in black bags. Then, after working sources through the predawn hours on the last day of the police dragnet, she reported the names of the suspects and that they were Russian Chechens.

When the manhunt ended and the surviving suspect was taken into custody, Ray captured exclusive video, sprinting ahead when he saw the ambulance leaving, escorted by police. As it passed, Ray raised the video camera up to the window and got the shot of the suspect inside, on his back. The single edit was used more than 1,800 times by AP video clients, leading BBC and Sky News bulletins.

Domb Sadof, who normally is the photo desk liaison to the Business Desk, was virtually a one-woman show pursuing user-generated photos through social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook. She obtained permission from the families to use photos of the three people killed, and in at least two cases her efforts led to interviews with photographers that developed into stories.

She even managed to connect the Boston bombings to another tragedy. A marathoner on his way home from Boston witnessed the Texas fertilizer plant explosion. Domb Sadof located the man and passed along his information to the Central Desk for a story.