2 killed in news helicopter crash near Seattle Center

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, who worked for several years at KOMO and whose son also works there. 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.

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. Investigators from the FAA and the NTSB will investigate.

A second news helicopter in Seattle was grounded following the crash.

A tweet from the Twitter account of KIRO 7's news director said, "Chopper7 has been grounded, pending a thorough review of flight safety."

Drivers are 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.

Associated Press contributed to this report.


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