UPDATE: News helicopter crashes by Seattle's Space Needle - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: News helicopter crashes by Seattle's Space Needle

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SEATTLE (KING) - A pilot and photographer were killed when a KOMO news helicopter crashed on top of three vehicles outside Seattle Center Tuesday morning and caught fire. A third person was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

The crash happened around 7:45 a.m. in the 400 block of Broad Street next to Fisher Plaza, which is home to KOMO.

The photographer was identified as Bill Strothman and the pilot was identified as Gary Pfitzner.
Bo Bain, a construction worker, said he saw the helicopter land and stay on the pad for about a minute or two.

"When he went to take back off, the sound of the helicopter changed kind of drastically and I looked and the helicopter was almost immediately pitched sideways and off balance and he kind of nose-dove over the trees and clipped the top of the trees and crashed on the other side of the street," said Bain.
When firefighters arrived, they found the helicopter, two cars and a pickup truck on fire, along with a huge cloud of black smoke, fire department spokesman Kyle Moore said.

"Not only were the cars on fire, the fuel running down the street was on fire," he told reporters at the scene.

Firefighters stopped the burning fuel from entering the sewer.

The FAA and the NTSB arrived Monday morning to investigate the crash.

A 37-year-old man was taken to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition with burns over 15-to-20 percent of his body. The hospital said the burns are deep and will require surgery. That man was in one of the cars, but managed to pull himself out.

A woman from one of the burned cars went to a police station and talked to officers. A man from the pickup truck walked off, but was later located OK.

The helicopter was a Eurostar AS350-B2. Eurostar is an Airbus company. The aircraft was being operated by Helicopters, Inc. through a lease agreement with KOMO News. The company is based in St. Louis, MO and, according to its website, employs 140 full-time pilots and mechanics nationwide and flies more than 45,000 hours every year.

KIRO 7 grounded its helicopter, pending a thorough review of flight safety, according to news director Bob Jordan's post on Twitter.

Strothman won 13 Emmys and worked for KOMO from 1979-2008, but has been employed by Helicopters, Inc. since 2008. Strothman's son, Dan, works at KOMO as a photographer.
Drivers were being told to avoid the area. The investigation was expected to last several hours. The Space Needle and Experience Music Project closed for the day out of respect for those killed.

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