Fatal News Helicopter Crash At Seattle Center, Injured Man Improving

Mar 18, 2014

An investigation is underway as the National Transportation Safety Board tries to determine what caused the news helicopter to crash near the Space Needle on Tuesday morning, killing two people and injuring one.

NTSB has released a preliminary report on the crash.. The full report will take about a year to complete according to NTSB estimates.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said that the city will also be reviewing rules of helicopter pads in the city.

KOMO News identified the two victims killed in the crash as veteran photographer Bill Strothman and pilot Gary Pfitzner. They were both on board the helicopter, leased by KOMO News, when it crashed shortly after taking off around 7:40 a.m.

The chopper caught on fire after it struck three nearby cars, including the one driven by 38-year-old Richard Newman.

Newman was transported to Harborview Medical Center and his condition has been upgraded from critical to serious condition with burns covering about 20 percent of his body. 

Newman, who was driving a red car at the time of the crash, was able to free himself out of his car, according to authorities. A female driver of a blue car walked to the local police precinct; the driver of a silver pickup truck walked away from the scene and was later located by police. He was not injured.

NTSB investigator Dennis Hogenson said three investigators were at the scene to interview witnesses and that the wreckage will be laid out in a hangar in Auburn as part of the NTSB investigation.

“We learned that the helicopter was on an earlier mission and had returned to this area to refuel. Shortly after they refueled, they departed,” Hogenson said. “A witness described that as the helicopter lifted off of building, it began to rotate counterclockwise and subsequently crashed.”

Hogenson said that the 2003 AS 350 Eurocopter was assembled in Grand Prairie, Texas, and is a popular helicopter for newsgathering.

The Seattle Center Monorail began operations again on Wednesday, along with the Space Needle, EMP, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and Seattle Children's Museum.

Eyewitness Accounts

Justin Rabung's Video  

[View the story "News Helicopter Crashes In Downtown Seattle" on Storify]