VIDEO VAULT | Las Vegas news reporter died on vacation a year after his car was firebombed
This weekend marks 30 years since a unique and powerful voice in Southern Nevada journalism was suddenly silenced.
It was September 3, 1987 when a local newsman became the news.
“Good evening,” began News-3 anchor Dave Courvoisier. “Tonight, the tragic news that Channel-8 anchorman Ned Day is dead. It happened while on vacation in Hawaii. News crews on the island tell us by phone he died early this morning. Apparently while snorkeling in Haunauma Bay, an area popular with tourists.”
It was the top story in bold headlines for both the Las Vegas Sun and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, though one newspaper was affected much more directly than the other.
“The newsroom at the Las Vegas Review-Journal seemed quiet today after news of Ned Day's death came in,” reported Dan Burns. “Day was a columnist here for six years. Before that, he was at another paper [The Valley Times], but the RJ recruited him because he was the best in town.”
“He was a very good writer, he was a good journalist,” RJ Managing Editor Mary Hausch told News-3. “He took pride in his writing. He was a good reporter. He researched things well. And he had great pride in our city. He adopted it as his own.”
The Milwaukee native made his name in Las Vegas as a hard-hitting columnist, with barbed commentary aimed at powerful people.
“He was high on himself too,” continued Hausch with a smile. “And he loved to say ‘Boy, I've good a good column today, Boss. You're gonna love this one. This is really a good column. This is hot stuff!’ I didn't always agree with him, but he did write a lot of excellent columns.”
Eventually he moved to television as an anchor and investigative reporter, not afraid to take on organized crime interests.
“This is the Las Vegas Strip today,” said a somber Ned Day in a trench-coat for his series ‘Mob on the Run’ in 1987. “Broadway West. The Great Neon Way, Money, power, sex. That's what it's all about on this street of streets in Las Vegas.”
“Issues would come along and his eyes would light up,” KLAS Managing Editor Emily Neilson told News-3. “And that's what he lived for. And to get the story and get it right. And to start at the bottom. And by the end of the day he's have a whole yellow pad, and it's full of notes. It thrilled him. He loved it. It was the chase.”
Day’s fixation with the mob may have had something to do with the firebombing of his car in July of 1986. Day made light of it in a column the following day, and the crime was never solved.
By summer of 1987, he’d experienced some health issues and there was a history of heart trouble in his family. From that perspective, his sudden death while on vacation at age 42 might not have been as much as a shock.
“Ned Day was a man who loved life and loved reporting on it,” eulogized News-3’s Hank Tester on air. “And that was his strength. He could see stories where quite frankly a lot of us didn't.”
There are still people today who suspect that Day’s death was somehow a mob hit. The coroner’s report indicated it was a natural death from heart attack, and officially there is no mystery surrounding it.
Ned Day would be 72 years old today if he were still around.