ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
60°
Mostly Cloudy
H 65° L 42°
  • cloudy-day
    60°
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Cloudy. H 65° L 42°
  • cloudy-day
    43°
    Morning
    Mostly Cloudy. H 65° L 42°
  • cloudy-day
    60°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 63° L 29°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg news on demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg traffic on demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg weather on demand

00:00 | 00:00

News
Investigation continues in fatal news helicopter crash
Close

Investigation continues in fatal news helicopter crash

Investigation continues in fatal news helicopter crash
Smoke from the crash is seen from the 2800 block of Third Avenue at 7:41 a.m. (Casey McNerthney/KIRO 7)

Investigation continues in fatal news helicopter crash

The news helicopter had just stopped at a helipad to refuel on its way to another assignment when it crashed and burst into flames yards from the Space Needle in the heart of Seattle, killing the two men on board and seriously injuring a third man who was on fire when he escaped from his car.

It may be months before federal investigators know what caused the chopper to plummet at a busy intersection, setting three vehicles ablaze and spewing burning fuel down the street during the Tuesday morning commute.

The KOMO-TV flight was one of many helicopter flights that take off and land in Seattle's downtown. Mayor Ed Murray said officials would review rules for helicopter pads in the city to determine if any changes need to be made.

Witnesses reported hearing unusual noises coming from the aircraft as it lifted off after refueling, said Dennis Hogenson, deputy regional chief of the Western Pacific Region for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Click here to see photos of Pfitzner and Strothman

They also said the aircraft rotated counterclockwise before it crashed near the Seattle Center campus, which is home to the Space Needle, restaurants and performing arts centers.

Bo Bain, an excavation foreman at a nearby construction project, watched the helicopter land as usual, one of many flights he has watched come and go in recent months. But he said something sounded different when the aircraft left the helipad Tuesday morning.

"It pitched sideways. It was off balance, and you could tell right away something wasn't right," Bain said. "The helicopter was struggling to stay up. It spun around, hit the top of the tree and landed on the street."

Seconds later, he said: "It was just a fireball. The whole thing burst into flames. I saw people running from their cars."

Hogenson said a preliminary report on the crash is expected in five days, followed by a fuller report with a probable cause in up to a year.

KOMO identified the pilot as Gary Pfitzner, of Issaquah. The other man killed in the crash was Bill Strothman, a former longtime KOMO photographer. Both men were working for Cahokia, Ill.-based Helicopters Inc., which owned the Eurocopter AS350 helicopter. The aircraft was leased jointly by KOMO and KING-TV.

The helicopter was a temporary replacement for one that's in the shop for an upgrade, KOMO reported.

Firefighters who arrived at the scene before 8 a.m. found a "huge black cloud of smoke" and two cars and a pickup truck engulfed in flames, Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore said.

Fuel running down the street also was on fire, and crews worked to stop it before it entered the sewer.

An injured man managed to free himself from a burning car and was taken to Harborview Medical Center, Moore said. The man was on fire and KOMO reported that one of its building security guards, Brian Post, ran toward the fire to help.

"I used my hand at first and then his jacket to get the flames out," Post, a former police officer, told the station.

Richard Newman, 38, suffered burns on his lower back and arm, covering as much as 20 percent of his body, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said. He was in serious condition in the intensive care unit and likely will require surgery, she said Tuesday.

Two others who were in vehicles that were struck by the helicopter were uninjured.

KOMO is a block from the Space Needle and is surrounded by high-rise office and apartment buildings. Workers at the station rushed to the window when they heard the crash. KOMO reporters were then in the position of covering their colleagues' deaths.

One of them, Denise Whitaker, said on the street shortly after the crash: "It is a difficult time for all of us this morning."

News anchor Dan Lewis described Strothman as someone "who really knew how his pictures could tell a million words."

"He was just a true gentleman," Lewis said on the air. "We're going to miss you guys."

The Strothman family said in a statement that the former KOMO photographer was a "great man, a kind soul, a devoted husband, a loving father and brother."

Mark Pfitzner said in a statement that his brother Gary loved adventure, to travel and to fly. He was the oldest of seven kids and "took great care of his brothers and sister."

Other cities have experienced helicopter crashes as TV stations rush to cover the news from above major cities.

The last helicopter crash in Seattle was in November 1999, when a KIRO-TV news helicopter collided in midair with another helicopter over Lake Union. There were only minor injuries, after both pilots landed safely at nearby helipads, according to an NTSB report.

Current rules in Seattle allow helipads to be used downtown and in some commercial zones and industrial areas. They can be used only for public service, emergency medical care and for news agencies, mayor's office spokesman Jeff Reading said.

Two news helicopters collided in midair in Phoenix in 2007 as the aircraft covered a police chase, sending fiery wreckage plummeting onto a park. Four people in the helicopters were killed. The crash prompted changes at the stations in how they operated their helicopter crews.

 

 

Want to talk about the news of the day? Watch free streaming video on the KIRO 7 mobile app and iPad app, and join us here on Facebook.

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

  • A led to a Butler County couple suing their police department for a wrongful drug bust. >> Read more trending newsAudrey and Edward Cramer talked about that incident on Thursday as they announced the lawsuit. The Cramers said it all started when their insurance agent came to their Buffalo Township home for a property damage claim and took pictures of hibiscus plants. The agent thought they were marijuana and gave the pictures to police. Audrey Cramer could not hold back the tears as she described how three Buffalo Township police officers pulled her out of her home on Oct. 5 wearing only her underwear. 'I was not treated as though I was a human being. I was just something they were going to push aside,' she said. “I asked them again if I could put pants on and he told me no and I had to stand out on the porch.' The Cramers say that police thought they were growing marijuana in the backyard of their Garden Way home. When officers got a search warrant and went to their house, the Cramers say their home was ransacked and they were handcuffed and forced to sit in a police car for four hours. 'Sometimes I think they look for a crime where it doesn't exist in order to justify their existence,' Edward Cramer said. Edward Cramer says he tried to explain that the plants were hibiscus flowers. The couple's attorney, Al Lindsay, filed a lawsuit today on their behalf. 'I cannot understand the frame of reference that was on these police officers’ minds, what were they thinking,” Lindsay said. The Cramers say they never got an apology. Audrey says she has severe emotional trauma. 'I don't sleep at night,” she said. “And you don't leave me at the house by myself.' Channel 11 reached out to the Buffalo Township police and the township manager but they have yet to respond.
  • After four long trials, former Tulsa police officer Shannon Kepler learned his sentence Monday. Kepler was convicted of fatally shooting his daughter's boyfriend, 19-year-old Jeremey Lake, in 2014. Carl Morse, Lake’s father, spoke during Shannon Kepler's sentencing hearing. Morse said he woke up Monday wanting to 'to rip the head off' of Kepler, but later said it would do him no good to carry that hate and that it wouldn't bring back his son. A judge later sentenced Kepler to 15 years in prison.
  • The White House says the true cost of the opioid drug epidemic in 2015 was $504 billion, or roughly half a trillion dollars. In an analysis to be released Monday, the Council of Economic Advisers says the figure is more than six times larger than the most recent estimate. The council said a 2016 private study estimated that prescription opioid overdoes, abuse and dependence in the U.S. in 2013 cost $78.5 billion. Most of that was attributed to health care and criminal justice spending, along with lost productivity. The council said its estimate is significantly larger because the epidemic has worsened, with overdose deaths doubling in the past decade, and that some previous studies didn’t reflect the number of fatalities blamed on opioids, a powerful but addictive category of painkillers. The council also noted that previous studies had focused exclusively on prescription opioids, while its study also factors in illicit opioids, including heroin. “Previous estimates of the economic cost of the opioid crisis greatly underestimate it by undervaluing the most important component of the loss — fatalities resulting from overdoses,” said the report, which the White House released Sunday night.
  • As we say goodbye to the Georgia Dome after a quarter-century, it’s only fitting we . The Atlanta landmark was demolished at 7:30 a.m. Monday. The last event was held in the 25-year-old building in March, and the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened next door in August.>> Watch a video of the implosion here >> Head to WSBTV.com for complete coverage of the implosion  From Super Bowls, to NCAA Men’s Final Fours, to the Summer Olympics, the dome has hosted some incredible sporting events.  1996 Summer Olympics The 70,000-seat Georgia Dome was basically divided into two separate arenas. On one side, “The Magnificent Seven” captured America’s first victory ever in women’s team gymnastics. The team – made up of Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Dominique Dawes, Kerri Strug, Amy Chow, Amanda Borden and Jaycie Phelps – is probably best known for Strug landing a vault on one foot to clinch the gold medal. She was famously helped off by coach Bela Karolyi. >> On WSBTV.com: Crews make last-minute preps for Georgia Dome implosion On the other side, “The Dream Team” won its second gold medal in men’s basketball. The team – coached by Lenny Wilkens – defeated Yugoslavia 95-69 in the gold medal game. Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton and David Robinson played on this team and the original 1992 Dream Team. Super Bowl XXVIII The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills 30-13, earning their fourth Super Bowl in franchise history. After trailing 13-6 at halftime, the Cowboys closed the game with 24 unanswered points. Emmitt Smith scored twice and was named the game’s MVP. The crowd of 72,817 saw Natalie Cole sing the national anthem, Joe Namath do the coin toss and a halftime show featuring The Judds, Clint Black, Travis Tritt and Tanya Tucker. Super Bowl XXXIV The second Super Bowl hosted by the Georgia Dome was one of the most memorable in history. The St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans 23-16 when Mike Jones stopped Kevin Dyson just short of the goal-line on the game’s final play.Quarterback Kurt Warned threw for 414 yards and 2 touchdowns, and was named the game’s MVP. >> Read more trending news  The crowd of 72,625 saw Faith Hill sing the National Anthem and a halftime show featuring Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton and Edward James Olmos. An ice storm hit Atlanta during the week of the game and many doubted the city’s ability to host the event. Despite the concerns, the Super Bowl will return to Atlanta in 2019. Tornado hits downtown Atlanta Thousands of basketball fans were inside the Georgia Dome when an EF-2 tornado ripped through downtown Atlanta in March 2008. The 130 mph tornado killed one person near downtown, blew out dozens of windows from high-rise buildings, tossed trees and cars and damaged homes in the area. Inside the Georgia Dome, fans were watching the Southeastern Conference college basketball tournament. The game between Mississippi State and Alabama was in overtime when the tornado struck around 9:40 p.m. The storm ripped open a panel on the side of the dome, shearing bolts and causing insulation to fall into the arena. The game was completed after the storm moved through. The rest of the tournament was postponed. The dome, along with several other downtown buildings, underwent repairs while staying open for business in the years after the tornado. Sugar Bowl moved to Georgia Dome After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the Sugar Bowl between the Georgia Bulldogs and the West Virginia Mountaineers was played at the Georgia dome in January 2006. It was the first time the “South’s Biggest Bowl Game” was played outside of the state of Louisiana. That week, within a four day period, the dome hosted three games. Along with the Sugar Bowl, the dome also hosted the Peach Bowl between LSU and Miami and an NFL game between the Falcons and the Panthers. 2012 NFC Championship game The Georgia Dome has seen its share of Falcons successes and frustrations. The 2012 NFC Championship was one of the franchise's biggest accomplishments and toughest defeats. It was the first-ever NFC championship game in Atlanta. The Falcons jumped out to a 17-0 second-quarter lead over the San Francisco 49ers. The lead wouldn't last, and after failing to make a play at the end, the Falcons lost 28-24 and missed the Super Bowl.  2017 NFC Championship game In 2017, the Falcons would not squander a chance to return to the Super Bowl. In their final game at the Georgia Dome, the Falcons beat the Packers 44-21 to advance to their second Super Bowl in franchise history. In this game, the Falcons again jumped out to a 17-0 lead, but this time they never looked back. They took a 24-0 at halftime and held on for a convincing win to close out their time at the Dome.  NCAA Tournaments Atlanta has hosted 85 NCAA men's tournament games, fifth most of any city. Thirty of those games were played at the Georgia Dome. Six NCAA Regionals, three men's Final Fours (2002, 2007 and 2013) and one women's Final Four were played at the Dome. The Dome's final tournament in 2013 set records. A crowd of 74,326 beat the record for the largest ever for a final game.  State Championships The Dome has been home to the finals since 2008, but the stadium's 25-year history with Georgia high school football dates back to the building's opening in 1992. On Sept. 5, 1992, the Corky Kell Classic matchup between Brookwood and McEachern was the first regular season football game in the Dome. Until then, Georgia high school football rarely was played on such a big stage.  In the 25 seasons, 169 Georgia high schools have participated in the Dome's 298 high school football games, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.  Soccer at the dome Eleven soccer games were played at the Georgia Dome since 2009. The first competitive soccer games were held during the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The U.S. men's national team made its first appearance in Atlanta since 1977 in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals at the Dome.  In all, the Dome hosted Mexico's 'El Tri' four times, Mexico's Club America twice and the U.S. men's and women's national teams once each. Notable visitors also include European clubs A.C. Milan and Manchester City.
  • As family and friends sit down for Thanksgiving this week, you’re going to want to make sure that Fido and Fluffy aren’t begging for scraps under the table. TurkeyThe centerpiece of Thursday’s big dinner can be toxic to pets if you use garlic, butter and other seasoning, Fox News reported. If the bird is cooked without extra ingredients, then it is safe for dogs and cats, The American Kennel Club says. The AKC also says to remove the skin and excess fat from any pieces you sneak to the dog, and don’t let them gnaw on the bones because they can splinter and either block or tear their intestines. >>Related: Why Teddy doesn’t get Thanksgiving scraps Stuffing Stuffing, while made mostly of bread, can be dangerous to dogs and cats thanks to the ingredients used. Onions are dangerous for dogs and cats. They can cause anemia in dogs, according to the AKC. >> Read more trending news Sweet Potatoes Again it’s not the main ingredient of sweet potatoes, but the seasonings that can cause your pets to get sick, Fox News reported. >>Related: Top Thanksgiving food safety tips Alcohol Small amounts of alcohol can make them intoxicated. It can also cause a drop in blood sugar, blood pressure and in severe cases, seizures, respiratory failure and even death, according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. >>Related: 7 things to know about The National Dog Show Coffee Caffeine is a big no for animals. If an animal drinks anything with caffeine, it can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, hyperactivity and abnormal heart rhythms, according to the ASPCA. Chocolate We all know that chocolate is dangerous to dogs, but why is the sweet treat a no-no for dogs? It’s all because of theobromine, which is toxic for dogs and cats. If they ingest it, they may vomit, have diarrhea and seizures, even death, according to Reader’s Digest. >>Related: Thanksgiving 2017: Alternative ways to spend the holiday Click here for more foods that are dangerous to pets.