Two killed in Seattle TV helicopter crash near Space Needle - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Investigators search for answers in deadly Seattle TV helicopter crash

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Photo courtesy: Seattle Fire Department Photo courtesy: Seattle Fire Department
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SEATTLE (KPTV) -

A Seattle TV news helicopter crashed in downtown Seattle on Tuesday morning, killing two people on board and injuring one person on the ground.

The victims in the KOMO TV helicopter were identified as pilot Gary Pfitzner and photographer Bill Strothman, who were working for the helicopter leasing company. Strothman was a former longtime KOMO photographer.

Seattle firefighters said they found Pfitzner and Strothman dead when they arrived at the scene just yards away from The Space Needle. The injured person was rushed to Harborview Medical Center and listed in critical condition with burns on up to 20 percent of his body.

The crash happened shortly after takeoff from the Fisher Plaza helipad.

"We heard the chopper swirling down to the ground. Rushed out to see the unbelievable, our @komonews chopper crashing into at least 2 cars," wrote reporter Kelly Koopmans on Twitter.

Seattle firefighters said three cars erupted in flames at the scene of the crash.

A report on the KOMO website said a man was seen running from one of the cars with his sleeve on fire. His clothing was extinguished by officers at the scene, and the car fires were also extinguished by fire crews.

The FAA and the NTSB both sent investigative teams to the helicopter crash scene.

Helicopters Inc., which owns the helicopter involved and also owns the helicopter used by KPTV, said the helicopter may have struck a crane shortly after takeoff, but investigators have not confirmed that information.

Investigators said witnesses reported hearing "unusual noises" from the helicopter before the crash, according to the Associated Press. Others said they saw the helicopter rotate before it hit the ground.

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board is expected in five days. A more detailed report with a probable cause could take up to a year.

The Space Needle was closed Tuesday "out of respect for those impacted," according to the landmark's official Twitter account.

KIRO TV, another Seattle-based television station, issued a statement saying it has grounded its helicopter "effective immediately" out of "an abundance of caution."

Copyright 2014 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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